Now that there is little doubt about the existence of Ebola as it continues to claim more lives with thousands of confirmed, suspected and probable cases across the sub-region, authorities in Nimba County have halted daily marketing activities that take marketers from one town to the other.
It is customary for sellers in rural areas in Liberia to attend market days during the week in designated towns.
Marketers board trucks with their goods either in the early morning hours to get to market on time, or leave a day to in advance to sleep in the town in order to sell the next day.
With the rapid rise in the Ebola death toll, however, the City Mayor of Sanniquellie, Mary Gonlepah, last week warned marketers via community radio stations not to go to Sanniquellie market until otherwise ordered.
Mayor Gonlepah said it was her personal view that the virus gets transmitted through bodily contact; and the convergence of people in such a manner as “market day” has the propensity to spread the virus exponentially.
“This is not to say people should not travel to Sanniquellie or marketing activity is totally stopped. We do not want marketers sit together on vehicles to come to the Saturday market as had been done in the past until the Ebola crisis subsides,” Mayor Gonlepah explained.
At the same time, the City Mayor of Bahn (another town in Nimba), Angie Dopoe, has stopped the Wednesday market of that municipality, warning that any group going there for marketing purpose will face the consequences.
In Saclepea, marketers residing there only go to the daily market, but people, without caution from the city authority, have resolved to stay away from the larger Tuesday market. As Ebola rages, many people are fearful and have taken precautionary measures of their own volition.
In fact, marketers there no longer gather in the market building situated along the Ganta highway, but spread outside where wide spaces are provided so that people do not touch one another during transactions.
However, out of town marketers in Ganta are not content with the decision by the city mayors although the evidence is clear.
According to a footwear seller, who spoke on the local community broadcaster, the decision is hampering them as most of them do not have selling spots in the Ganta Market.
The seller, who was later joined by other callers on the radio, claim that the decision by the city mayors is preventing them from conducting their businesses, making it difficult for them to feed their families. They are, therefore, calling on the Nimba authorities to reconsider their decisions.
Meanwhile, villagers in the county are not taking the Ebola awareness for granted, now that so many have died due to denial.
Reports gathered from local villages indicate that before a stranger or even a citizen of a village who has been away can be accepted back in that village, he/she must undergo a 21-day observation period, a community-instigated quarantine, before being allowed to interact with the community.
Nimbaians swallow grinded cassava root (otherwise known as Gaygba or GB) as their second staple food, and they use their hands to dip it into the sauce to swallow.
This is done together with other family members or friends and they all use the same sauce to dip their GB (gaekpa or bayekpo), but because of the message that Ebola gets transmitted through bodily contact, this custom is now halted, and each individual is only entitled to his/her own sauce, each eating from his/her own bowl.