PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON EBOLA AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR SOCIETY- (PART THREE): A STRATEGY FOR PHASE TWO

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In this third article of the series that is focused on the Ebola Virus Disease and its devastating impact on all of the Liberian society and the ongoing war to eradicate it and mitigate its impact the thrust is on finding an appropriate strategy to accelerate the defeat of it. Everyone involved in the fight against Ebola agrees that there has to be a new strategy or a revision of an earlier one if phase two of the war is to be won quickly. What is it? The second article on the call for the postponement of the special senatorial mid-term elections noted the following points:

That phase two is a great opportunity and is at the same time a big risk. This is a great opportunity if we accelerate our gains and kick this deadly virus out of the country and the region, and a grave risk if we become complacent. I added my voice to many calling for an acceleration of our combined efforts to fight and kick Ebola out.

How then do elections fit in with the need to heighten our combined efforts to eradicate Ebola? The question of the mid-term elections in Liberia now has two sides and serious implications. Those who want elections now generally use two main arguments. That if we do not have the elections now we run the risk of a constitutional crisis. The other argument is that though Ebola is here and is killing a lot of people yet most offices are still operating, markets continue to function, religious Services take place regularly, entertainment places are open, and people generally move about freely throughout the length and breadth of the country. If these activities can continue with some controls and success therefore elections can be held with similar controls put in place.

Those of us who oppose to elections now do so for the following reasons. Our constitution allows that when there is a state of emergency certain exercises and functions of state and its people such as their rights, freedoms and guarantees may be curtailed or suspended. Most Liberians and international partners agree that Ebola is a form of war that poses a clear and present danger. Can one have elections in time of a civil war raging on? The answer is no. Necessity dictates that one cannot have elections in time of war.

Another reason is that an election of the mid-term kind requires campaigning that in turn involves mass movement of people, gathering in large numbers and lots of sweating in some instances. Elections in Liberia and their associated activities more than those of running offices, market, religious and entertainment places, increase the risk of Ebola inflection spread. The mid-term elections might send the wrong signal that the Ebola Virus Disease is no longer the threat to national life and existence it was a month or so ago and might detract from the intensification of the war against Ebola.

Most of the partners in the fight against Ebola (the government, health workers, media, internal partners, religious community, civil society organizations, teachers, security forces [army, police and immigration personnel], and traditional leaders) agree that the community is key to bringing the rate of infection to zero and it is at the community level that the focus should be. The government and its local and international partners should bring all of their expertise and resources to empower communities to achieve what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified as: (1) safe burial: bury all dead bodies safely, (2) isolation of sick people: keep sick people away from others, (3) speedy and effective communication about cases and contacts, (4) Contact tracing: help find anyone who is suspected of being infected, and (5) quarantine of contacts and supply them with food and water: contacts must stay to one area. This and all the personal and communal preventive measures are what must be done. But how can we get them done?

There are lots of helps out there from the international and local partners. But one great need is the coordination of all the interventions: who is doing what, where and when.  Such a directory should be available by now. We must endeavor to respond to any outbreaks anywhere quickly starting with those who are already working there.

The free movement of people throughout the length and breadth of the country is a major concern, especially during this Christmas and elections time. At some point the government has to take the hard decision to let everyone stay where he/she is for three weeks. People have to stop moving from place to place and let homes and communities be checked. This approach is not popular and is very expensive but a radical problem requires a radical solution.

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