The Liberian government has urged store owners and traders to reopen their businesses on Water Street amidst fear by business owners.
The Water Side Market was shut down on Wednesday in a bid to quarantine West Point, which the government said had been badly hit by the lethal Ebola virus. The densely populated slum community, which has a population of about 70,000, is located in very close proximity to the market.
State security forces say they had to quarantine the entire Water Side market on August 20 in order to successfully quarantine West Point, the main target of the quarantine exercise.
Armed security officers clashed with hundreds of stone throwing residents from the slum community on Wednesday, which reportedly led to about four people being injured. A teenage boy, hit by a stray bullet, has since died.
Calm has meanwhile returned to the area after the government moved in with assorted relief items such as rice, oil, beans and water.
Liberia National Police (LNP) officers deployed at central Monrovia’s biggest business market district Thursday tried to encourage store owners to reopen. There was restriction, however, put in place by the police. Only stores on Mechlin Street down Water Side and those on Water Street going towards the Gabriel Tucker Bridge were told to open. But the hundreds of store owners and traders that turned out on Water Street expressed security concerns if they opened their stores.
“How can we open our stores when the entire streets are deserted amidst armed security personnel,” said a Lebanese trader.
Yana boys, girls and frozen food sellers flocked Water Street Thursday seeking to convince state security officials to allow them access to a cold storage near the main Water Side Market Building. “Our fish and pig feet will get rotten,” they said.
A market woman told our reporter that she has not been allowed to the cold storage for two days. “How am I going to manage after investing all of my money to buy fish and can’t have access to it,” she wondered.
Banks and other businesses resumed normal operations in central Monrovia as tension eased. All of the stores that temporarily shut down on Wednesday resumed full operations. “We are on high alert,” some store owners said.
Rising Food Prices amidst Shortage in West Point
Food prices have soared in West Point the Monrovia slum community quarantined on Wednesday by the government of Liberia, eyewitnesses and residents there have said.
The price of a cup of rice has reportedly increased to anywhere between L$75.00 and L$100.00, up from L$20.00 and 30.00 prior to the quarantine. A journalist who is among the people quarantined in West Point says the country's supply of rice is rapidly diminishing. A 25 kg bag of rice is now sold for anywhere between L$1,800.00 and L$2,500, up from L$1,300.
The reporter anonymously explained how tension is flaring in the slum community as frustration looms among the people. “No food, and you know how our people… behave,” he pointed out. The government of Liberia has dispatch relief items to the people of West Point, including food, water and other items. But they are just not enough for the nearly 70,000 people quarantined in the community.
West Point Commissioner
West Point Commissioner Madam Miata Haja Flowers confirmed that relief items were being brought in by the government. The relief items are being distributed by the leadership of the community which including the Kissi, Mandingo, Kru and Fula governors as well as youth leaders, she told the Daily Observer. Commissioner Flowers stressed that the relief is critical as people are not allowed to leave or enter the West Point. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola has killed over 1,350 people in West Africa with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea topping the death toll.