COTAE Worried over Spike in COVID-19 Cases

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Anderson D. Miamen, Executive Director, CENTAL

Stresses the significance of safeguarding against this deadly disease

With 662 confirmed cases and 34 deaths across Liberia, the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE) has raised an alarm over the spike in the rate of infection in the country and called on the government to take prompt and adequate measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Addressing journalists on June 23, 2020, in Monrovia, COTAE’s National Coordinator Anderson D. Miamen stressed the importance of safeguarding against the deadly disease, which he said cannot be overly emphasized.

Mr. Miamen noted that Liberia cannot afford to once again endure a scourge as it did in 2014 with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). “Our memories are still fresh in respect of how loved ones were taken away, including our frontline medical personnel and healthcare workers.”

He recalled that more than 5,900 Liberian children lost one or both parents to Ebola, some with a surviving parent, while others found loving homes with friends or relatives. But many have become orphans who live on the streets or are still finding it tough to adapt to new lives with host families.

He said that it is important for the government to do more to increase citizens’ confidence in its response efforts. From all indications, the current poor state of the fight against COVID-19 and limited citizens’ compliance with health protocols can be attributed to poor coordination, limited citizens’ active involvement in key processes, and limited trust resulting from excesses of some key players.

Mr. Miamen believes that with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, if care is not taken soon, Liberia, as a country, risks losing its precious ones, endangering the future of many, especially children – “a situation we cannot afford.”

He, however, recognized the Government of Liberia’s efforts in extending the State of Emergency (SOE), which ended June 21, 2020, by an additional thirty (30) days to allow the government to re-examine its COVID-19 response strategy. Mr. Miamen: “We believe that this is a step in the right direction but urge the government to involve civil society and other stakeholders in its response strategy moving forward.”

He also believes that responding to COVID-19 without regard to the Liberian context has proven ineffective so far as the public no longer seems to comply with health protocols and associated restrictions; he, therefore, noted that all hands must be on deck to collectively fight the disease. Government has its role to play and so is civil society, media and other partners.

He further said an inclusive response, as demanded by some civil society organizations from the onset of COVID-19, would have prevented the current surge we are experiencing in communities, adding that meaningful involvement of all partners would have removed any cloud of suspicion from response efforts and further strengthen approaches, including those related to the feeding program, case tracking and curfew.

He further suggested that a broader response would have relied on the expertise, strengths, and unique capacities of each stakeholder, including those versed in community entry, social mobilization, awareness creation, transparency and accountability, and human rights.

Mr. Miamen, however, stated that it is not too late to correct the missteps taken earlier on.  The reality of the surge imposes upon all a duty to contribute our resources to put an end to this scourge. He at the same point acknowledged that everyone has a role to play and a holistic approach and such must, therefore, be properly carved out.

Meanwhile, Miamen said while the organization acknowledged the extension of the SOE, more needs to be done to avert human rights abuses, address accountability concerns, and adequately respond to the attending consequences of the outbreak and SOE on other sectors, especially education.

However, the organization has presented some recommendations. In its recommendations, they said that civil society organizations should be accorded the full respect and given the space to operate. “The Leaderships and essential staff of CSOs must be equally allowed to work, as they play vital roles in creating awareness, providing valuable inputs to government as well as independent monitoring and reporting on key trends and decision-making processes around the fight,” said Miamen.

COTAE also wants the rights of citizens to be fully respected and protected during the fight against COVID-19. He frowned on alleged brutality against citizens, especially women, and said it must never be an option. Miamen, who spoke on behalf of his organization, called on the government to investigate and prosecute any security officers who brutalize citizens during this period.

“Equally, we call on citizens to respect security officers and for security officers to refrain from brutalizing them as well and fully comply with safety measures announced by authorities.”  In his statement, Mr. Miamen stressed the need for COVID-19 resources to be effectively managed and accounted for to the public. He also stressed the need for all donations and resources received by the government to be timely communicated to the public in addition to reports of funds already disbursed for various activities and processes.

Commenting on the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) plan to start school for 12th graders across Liberia, Miamen called for total involvement and a thorough monitoring component that will ensure that schools are abiding by all protocols set out in the plan, including full compliance with safety measures announced by authorities.

“We wish to reiterate calls for all Liberians and residents to fully respect instructions from authorities to protect themselves and others during this period. We must all observe the social distancing rules, wear face masks, and avoid action(s) that undermine the fight against COVID-19,” Miamen added.

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