Save Liberia Campaign Shifts into National Outreach Phase
By Francis Lansana, Accountability Resident, Liberia & Brooks Marmon, Accountability Architect, Washington DC
Just beyond the St. John River lies Buchanan- a small Liberian port city named after the cousin of a former US President. Buchanan is home to one of the few paved highways in the country, built with Chinese expertise, and a railroad, originally constructed by a firm with links to Sweden and recently rehabilitated by a company with ties to India. The history and economy of Buchanan, which serves as the outlet for much of the country’s iron ore deposits and palm oil, vividly illustrates the interconnectedness of today’s world and the mobility that makes the Ebola virus not just a challenge for Liberia, but for the entire globe.
As Ebola continues to have an adverse impact on everyday life in West Africa, musicians in Liberia are escalating efforts to combat the virus. Over 45 Liberian artists have come together under the leadership of the Accountability Lab, the Business Start-Up Center, the Musicians Union of Liberia and Shizo Magazine to carry on a project called “Save Liberia” (listen here).
With generous support from the US Embassy in Liberia, the campaign has been able to mobilize Liberia’s leading musicians for outreach to sustain the momentum generated by the release of their song. The Lab (which previously founded the “Hip Co” Accountability Network through which this work draws inspiration) has provided core instruction to the artists on essential social accountability principles while each implementer has also led trainings that provide core information regarding Ebola transmission, practices to contain the disease, and the importance of reporting suspected cases and not discriminating against those infected by the disease. The artists have also received instruction on best practices for the safe application of disinfecting agents, such as chlorine, that can hinder the transmission of the virus.
Many of these musicians recently traveled on the newly rehabilitated road from Monrovia to Buchanan to further advance their message through musical performances, awareness dialogues, and radio shows. Illustrative of the popularity and reach of music as a medium of education, roughly 10,000 individuals (approximately a quarter of the population of the entire city) turned out for the event. The song is recorded in several local dialects and a significant part of the outreach on anti-Ebola sanitary practices was conducted in Bassa, the local language prevalent in Buchanan.
Liberia’s musicians are determined to rid Liberia of Ebola to save lives and support further development of the music industry, which was beginning to grow before the recent crisis. Meanwhile, residents of Buchanan praised the artists who are primarily Monrovia-based for getting out in their community and backing up the words of their song with actions.
The artists look forward to spreading the message and reaching additional Liberians through further outreach across the country (subsequent activities have already been held in Bomi county). In addition to overcoming Ebola, the musicians expect that the campaign will show the country in a better light and focus positive attention on the major progress the country has made over the past decade.
In recent months, Liberia has become notorious for exporting Ebola to Nigeria and the US. Save Liberia reminds us that we are all part of the same global community and advocates for public health improvements so that citizens of places like Buchanan can be more productive and in lieu of a virus, export ideas, goods, and a vibrant culture. As the Accountability Lab’s Country Representative, Lawrence Yealue, who is himself a recording artist notes, “we need to be accountable to each other, treat our fellow citizens with integrity and transparency, and recognize that we all have a part to play in addressing the inequalities that continue to persist in today’s world.”