Mobilizing communities to take charge of their health: The story of ECAP

This month Mercy Corps Liberia wraps up its innovative social mobilization program, the Ebola Community Action Platform (ECAP), which played a pivotal role in the Ebola response. It will be well remembered by all involved, and it offers unique insights into emergency programming. 

Funded by OFDA, the ECAP program was pioneering. It provided sub-grants to a broad array of Liberian community organizations and media outlets, who carried out Ebola prevention and awareness campaigns at the community level. Through over 100 partnerships with trusted local organizations, ECAP reached scale quickly and effective, providing credible, lifesaving information to 2.4 million people – over half of the country’s population. 

Following the initial emergency response, a second phase of ECAP was launched (ECAP 2) in 2015. A 1-year Ebola-recovery program, ECAP 2 again mobilized a large civil society and media network - 29 radio stations, and 26 NGOs – to build and sustain community preparedness against Ebola, alongside other life-threatening diseases. This was achieved through activating or strengthening over 1,500 Community Health Committees – health groups made up of volunteers who were trained and mobilized to engage their communities on disease prevention, and link people to their clinics. 

Beyond this, however, ECAP also succeeded in building up a cadre of passionate and informed civil society and media organizations, whose capacity has been strengthened in a range of areas from grants’ management to campaign skills and of course, emergency response. “Today there is a network of local organizations who have been put into an effective response network,” says one local partner Jzohn Alexander of CHESS Liberia. “If there is an outbreak, we know within ourselves what are the measures we should take.”

ECAP’s impact would have been impossible without the strong vibrant partnerships on which it was premised, which allowed access to vast local insights and knowledge, the ability to speak to people in their own languages, and build legitimacy quickly and effectively, in an often conflicted and contentious environment. 

The first ECAP program:

Reached 2.4 million Liberians (over 50% of the population) with life-saving information on Ebola;  
Featured in the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper as one of its NGO Heroes of 2015;  
Trained and supported 15,000 community members through over 100 implementing organizations including community radio stations and NGOs. 
 ECAP 2:

Reached over 1,550 communities with a population of approximately 1 million people, linking them to clinics and helping them adopt healthy behaviors to prevent Ebola and other diseases;
Community radio listenership of health campaign content (dramas, talkshows, spot messages) was over 950,000 people;  
Rapid response by 2 partners and 5 radio stations helped address the 2016 Ebola outbreak along the Guinean border in Nimba and Bong counties;  
Trained and supported 52 implementing partners; 350 Community Support Officers and over 11,000 Community Health Committee members to do community health promotion. 
Thanks to all those involved who have helped make ECAP a success over the last 18 months and played a part in fighting Ebola and helping Liberian communities take charge of their health.