By all accounts, Clara Doe Mvogo – a medical technologist by profession – is not only the Mayor of the city of Monrovia, Liberia, she is also one of its heroes. Just as Mrs. Mvogo was taking office in March 2014, the beginnings of the Ebola epidemic were taking root in rural areas of the country and adjacent regions of neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone. In light of the subsequent spread and devastating effects of the epidemic that developed, the challenge set before the newly minted mayor on the occasion of her inauguration by Liberia’s Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, are especially prophetic .
‘Ensure that Monrovia is clean and secure at all times’, he said, noting that the city been established in 1822 with a population of 10,000 inhabitants which had grown to 1.5 million in the intervening years . Such population growth creates obvious stressors for public safety and provision of services even without an infectious disease crisis.
Lucky for Monrovia, Mrs. Mvogo was perhaps the perfect person to be in the leadership position of mayor when the epidemic escalated in July 2014. In addition to formal training that includes a bachelors degree in biology and chemistry and a masters degree in clinical psychology, she is also a registered Medical Technologist . This translated into an immediate advantage in grasping a technical understanding of the situation and what needed to be done. By working with the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response and the UNICEF program Operation Stop Ebola, Mrs. Mvogo was able to set up and oversee a community intervention program that educated Monrovia’s residents block by block on how to identify symptoms of Ebola, how to prevent getting it, and what to do if residents suspected they or a family member might have it [3, 4]
While her formal training imparted the knowledge of what to do, her position as mayor ensured that the actions taken were implemented effectively. She knew organization was key in the success of the program and was able to provide space in Monrovia’s City Hall for training community leaders and volunteers. Once Operation Stop Ebola was underway, she directed all levels of her staff from the community service and environmental health departments to solid waste collection workers to help spread its message. She even went into the field herself for several days to help community leaders [3, 4].
Her medical technology background continues to serve her well as she oversees projects that will help prevent future disease outbreaks. Such projects might range from providing clean drinking water and sanitary public toilets to ensuring that everyone who enters City Hall has clean hands.
‘The Monrovia City Hall is one of the few places in Monrovia that continues to have people sanitize their hands before entering the building,’ said Mrs. Mvogo. ‘This includes the President and Vice President, who do it to show by example that sanitation is everyone’s business.’
Whatever their nature, her technical understanding of the issues her city faces have helped ensure the future health security of all the many residents of her city.
By: Bethanie Rammer, ASLM Communications; Photo: Candace Eastman, Africabio Enterprises, Inc. and Dr. Ali Elbireer, ASLM
Sources Brooks, Calvin. Minister Dukuly Challenges Monrovia City Mayor. Liberia News Agency. 31 March 2014. [cited 09 May 2017] http://www.liberianewsagency.org/pagesnews.php?nid=905  Celebrate Lab Week 2017 Conference: Lighting the Way to Standards. (Conference program.) 26-27 April 2017, Monrovia City Hall, Monrovia, Liberia.  Monrovia mayor involved the community leaders to defeat Ebola. UCLG Africa; 10 March 2016. [cited 09 May 2017] http://www.localafrica.org/en/resources/documents/manuals/item/640-monrovia-mayor-involved-the-community-leaders-to-defeat-ebola  Swope, Christopher. Monrovia Mayor Clara Doe Mvogo on Ebola’s lessons. Cityscope. 30 July 2015. [cited 09 May 2017] http://citiscope.org/story/2015/monrovia-mayor-clara-doe-mvogo-ebolas-lessons