There are lots of thoughts and fears about what happens to Liberia after Ebola. What kind of post-Ebola Liberia do we Liberians want, envisage and want work towards? It appears prudent and urgent, to me, for us to starting thinking seriously about what follows Ebola. Therefore I propose a series, a sequel to one about whether Ebola is a curse from God or a natural or man-made disaster, to start putting to pen and paper some of our fears and vision for a Liberia after Ebola. There are already a few proposals floating around. The goal of this series is to contribute to this worthy exercise by making some fresh proposals, reinforce and crystallize some of those already made, and to provide a personal religious perspective on Liberia after Ebola.
The vital question we should be asking ourselves as Liberians is: “Will Ebola leave us the same unpatriotic, self-centered, polarized, gullible, and envious people or will it leave us a better united people”? Our President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has already warned the international community and us that the Ebola crisis has the potential to lead to unrest or even another civil war! As one American expatriate put it: “Will Ebola leave us united or divided”? How can Ebola help us to pursue peace and progress more than ever before?”
The series will be divided into six parts: part one, this introductory one, will consider the devastating consequences of Ebola on every aspect of our national life. The second will give consideration to a crisis as an opportunity to change for the better. The third article will focus on a call for a fundamental change in our mindset and attitudes. In the fourth article some concrete proposals will be made to the government and the powers that be. The fifth article will delve into the role of the religious community. And, the sixth and final article will pay particular attention to the role of each and every individual Liberian.
There is no doubt that the Ebola outbreak is affecting seriously or challenging our existence as a nation and very way o life. Ebola is forcing us to change how we greet one another, show affection to each other, and how we show love and care for our sick. Naturally we are a hospitable people who love to shake hands, hug and embrace as we welcome and cater to family, friends and strangers who come to our homes. But the Ebola menace is denying us of that basic innate instinct!
Ebola is causing a lot of stigmatization among ourselves and from outsiders. The Ebola virus is so deadly that it incites fear and panic among families, places of work and play, and communities. It instantly drives away people from those who need them most. People who are suspected of having Ebola, those who have recovered from it, and those who work at Ebola treatment centers are shunned in some instances. Liberians who travel abroad and those who live in foreign parts are sometimes made to feel that they are a danger to have around and thus despised. A bishop told me while in another African country he announced that he was a Liberian and the immigration lady instantly said, “Bishop, I am afraid of you O”.
Ebola is undermining the family bond and causing divisions in some instances. I hear the sad story of a man who took his sister’s daughter from three up to seventeen years old. She was like the oldest daughter of her uncle’s family. One day the uncle returned home from work and she complained of severe headaches and high fevers and the uncle immediately drove her out throwing transportation fares and some of her clothes at her, “Do you want to kill my whole family? Leave now.” She managed to drag herself to her mother who got her to a health facility and it was discovered she had malaria. This incident has caused a serious fraction between a brother and sister who had been good friends over the years! To see your wife or child or mother sick and be told not to touch the suffering person is a terrible feeling to contemplate. Someone has said that Ebola is a mean disease!
Ebola is killing an already fragile economy and is doing so fast. It has slowed down economy activities and created a new wave of unemployment. All learning institutions of the country are closed. The little ones are deprived of learning. Most of those working with our mining and forest concessions, road construction, public and private offices and on the hydro are forced to stop work and in some instances are not paid. They, their families and dependant are severely pushed against the wall. Non-food small businesses are drastically hit. The prices of food and other essentials are going up and are likely to escalate.
The already much distrust between the government and its people (the Masses) is apparently increased by the Ebola crisis. A lot of people assume and speak as though for a fact that the funds allocated to fight Ebola are being squandered and are used to enrich a few against the majority. Ebola turns families and communities against one another out of fear. It causes stigmatization and leaves a permanent scar. Subsequent articles will explore how we all can mitigate some of these devastating effects of Ebola and turn them into opportunities to transform ourselves for the better.