Contributed by Melanie Bateman
Today, families in the US gather around the table for Thanksgiving, a national holiday to celebrate the harvest and to give thanks in general for all of life’s bounties. The United States is not unique in this custom; many other countries celebrate harvests and mark particular days as occasions for reflection and giving thanks. For example, Canada’s Thanksgiving took place in October, and Liberia celebrated Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago on Thursday, the 6th of November.
Thanksgiving also serves as a time to reflect on the challenges faced by those who are not as fortunate, particularly those in places where food security is at risk. In her statements to mark Liberia’s Thanksgiving holiday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf commented on the havoc wreaked by Ebola on her country and she further stated that “it is befitting that a day be set aside for the Nation and its people to give thanks … for the preservation of the lives of its people to overcome the spreading of the pathogenic disease”.
Liberia’s neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea also continue to struggle against Ebola. According to a recent article, Sierra Leone will soon displace Liberia as the country worst hit by the outbreak. Many parts of the country are under quarantine, restricting the movement of goods and people. These travel restrictions have profound implications – getting food to people in quarantine is no small task. For small-scale farmers and small-scale miners in particular, Ebola’s impact has been “catastrophic”. While Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the affiliated plant doctors continue to try to persevere with activities to support farmers, many challenges stand in their way. Even so, activities are still going forward as possible since the national team has passes to visit plant clinics and they have made distributions of items to plant doctors. Thankfully, there have been no reports of any problems with a plant doctor.
Reflection on challenges such as Ebola can in turn serve as a call to action. The people of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are working to defeat Ebola, but it is essential that the international community joins them in this fight. To learn more about the efforts of international organisations and to lend your own support, visit the webpages of organisations like the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontiers) and the International Medical Corps, among others.