Concern Worldwide Systems Director in Liberia, Paula Connolly from Longford, who has over 20 years experience in emergency aid work
A Longford woman with over twenty years’ experience responding to humanitarian emergencies is helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 in one of Africa’s poorest and war-torn countries.
Paula Connolly, from College Park in Longford Town is managing aid operations for Concern Worldwide in Liberia on the West African Coast.
Like many others working for the Irish aid agency, Paula chose not to evacuate when the opportunity arose – despite the country having limited health facilities and just six ventilators the population is around the same as it is in Ireland.
“It is my job to stay when times get tough,” said Paula, who is known locally for her involvement with the Girl Guides and Longford Rugby Club.
“It never occurred to me to consider leaving. There is much to be done and as a humanitarian working for Concern I stay, as have all of our team here.
“As the systems director, I make sure all operations continue as smoothly as possible in the time of lockdown.
“We need to source and procure items to support our Covid-19 prevention work, which can be very challenging but the rewards are life-changing and they protect them and us both here and in our home countries.”
This is the latest of many aid emergencies that Paula has responded to, which have in the past included helping refugees after war in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and in South Sudan.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Liberia is still much lower than in Europe, with it having just 166 people with the virus and 18 deaths (as of Tuesday, May 5), but it is feared that there may be many more not being tested.
Paula and her colleagues are focussing their efforts in very rural and remote areas of Liberia, mainly in counties Grand Bassa (its third largest county about the size of Cork) and Rivercess (about the size of Mayo).
They are providing life-saving essentials like soap, hand washing facilities, water wells, personal protection equipment for health centres, including fabric face masks made locally and tents for storage.
They are also spreading messages to people about how they can prevent themselves and their families from getting Covid-19, like the importance of hand washing and social distancing, on radio, on posters and from PA systems attached to the back of vehicles.
“We work with over 200 communities through these counties and support them with basic health and a focus on nutrition,” said Paula.
“Our teams are out every day raising awareness about safe practice for Covid-19 and this is also a race against time because heavy rains are due soon, which will make road travel very difficult.
“We are even helping to repair ambulances and hope to donate one too, which will make an enormous difference here – and it is all thanks to the continued support we have from our supporters in Ireland and around the world.”
Paula said she enjoys keeping in touch with her family and applauds the efforts of people in Longford and across Ireland to stay at home and reduce the number of Covid-19 cases.
Concern has launched an appeal for funding to support the work of Paula and her colleagues and anyone who wants to support them can find details on www.Concern.net.