A man believed to be in his early 30s set the main conference room of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoSHW) on fire Wednesday, July 23.
Our Health Correspondent, who was privileged to enter the room as the firefighters battled the blaze, noticed that the fire had completely burnt everything in its path, including two large standing British Thermal Unit (BTU) air conditioners and the very expensive leather-coated chairs reserved for VIPs.
The arsonist, unofficially identified as Edward Willington Bailey, alleged that he set the Ministry ablaze because his 14-year-old younger brother (name not given) had reportedly died last Friday, July 18, from the deadly Ebola virus, which is raging in Liberia.
He further stated “Because the health workers and the government abandoned my brother so I decided to burn down the Health Ministry.”
As he spoke, he was being pushed around and hassled by some MOSHW employees, who were very angry at what he had allegedly done. The police came to his rescue and took him to the Liberia National Police Headquarters.
Our correspondent said Bailey had been among health practitioners and international partners who had gathered at the Ministry on Tuesday, July 22 (the day before), when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, attended the Ebola Task Force meeting.
Deputy Health Minister for Health Services, Dr. Bernice Dahn, had asked, almost at the close of the meeting, if any partner had something new that they wanted to share with the Ministry. It was following this question that Bailey got up and went to the podium, to present what he said was a business model that he and others had put together to help in the anti-Ebola campaign.
But his brief presentation was reportedly so disjointed and incoherent that people started walking out of the room. Dr. Dahn asked him to go back to his seat, which he politely did.
It is not yet established whether he had planned to carry out his arson attack on Tuesday when President Sirleaf and the guests, including foreign diplomats, were in the room.
The conference room, which was set ablaze, had been used by the Ministry’s Ebola Task Force to meet every morning since the deadly disease’s outbreak was reported in March 2014.
There are many theories now surrounding Bailey’s mental status. Bystanders, especially some of the Ministry’s employees, were heard saying that he is “mentally deranged.” If this is true then he is one of 40 percent Liberians, who a Harvard Study has said have a mental problem—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Neither the government nor the Ministry, has issued an official statement on Wednesday’s arson attack against the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, which is struggling to cope with the deadly Ebola outbreak.
EBOLA SITUATION REPORT
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has reported in an update that at least seven (7) more persons died on Tuesday after contracting the virus. Three are from Lofa while the rest died in Montserrado County. This brings the death tally to at least 60 confirmed since March 22 when the first wave of the attack was reported.
Speaking at the Tuesday Task Force Meeting, President Sirleaf told the nation that she had instructed officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Liberia National Police to be on the standby in order to ensure that safety and preventive measures emanating from the Health Ministry in fighting the Ebola virus are adhered to by the Liberian public.
The President told everyone within Liberia’s borders that the fight against Ebola should be seen as a national endeavor and as such, officers of the AFL and LNP are to contribute their quotas by making sure that citizens obey the Health Ministry’s mandates.
The Health Ministry has consistently called on everyone and every community to report anyone showing symptoms of the disease. They have warned family members of a person suspected of dying from the virus not go anywhere near the corpse or touch the remains.