The Civil Society Organization and Human Rights platform of Liberia has described as ‘Poor’ the flow of information from multiple sources which according to the Platform distracts public attention. The CSO Platform is also condemning the lack of respect for confidentially on the part of government by calling names of persons affected by the virus, stressing that such is tantamount to committing suicide or posing serious psychological problem to the affected persons.
When the first case of the virus was identified in Liberia by health authorities conducting screening at the Roberts International Airport some weeks ago, President Weah singled out the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Nathaniel Blama, who, according to media reports, had evaded quarantine and screening at the airport and shortly after, the President suspended him from his post. Others suspected to be infected by the virus were also named without protecting their identities.
“Such a situation can cause affected people to commit suicide. The government needs to attach codes to those people confirmed with the virus and not to name people as it was in the case of Nathaniel Blama. The people have to live with us tomorrow or work in other places, and the stigma will be on them in those places,” said Rev. Francis Kollie, a member of the Platform and head of Prison Fellowship Liberia.
“Information dissemination and management are poor. Today you will hear the Health Minister, tomorrow the NPHIL Director and the other day Information Minister. This act of disseminating information about the health crisis is not done properly but distracts attention and confuses the public,” said Danieletta Sleyon of the CSO Platform.
Danieletta recalled that during the Ebola crisis in 2014 many people were trained to tackle disease outbreaks like the Covid-19, but as Liberia stands, there appears to be scarcity of manpower and not much sensitization is going on about the virus.
According to the CSO Platform, the selection of organizations to create awareness about the virus is being done on a selective and preferential basis and not based on a defined criteria.
The Monrovia City Corporation and the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, and the Paynesville City Corporation have launched outreach programs through which they distribute hand-washing materials and sprayed communities. President George Weah himself has organized his Executive group that has produced Coronavirus music currently being aired on various local radio stations.
“The fight should not be a partisan issue to leave out others. The government must include all stakeholders to participate in the fight,” Danieletta added.
In a statement read on behalf of the group on March 25, 2020, the Secretary-General of the Platform, Adama K. Dempster, emphasized that health is a human right and that the government needs to treat it cautiously taking into consideration the right of individuals to medical treatment as well as the right of medical personnel to personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.
“The CSO HRP encourages the government through the Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute, the National Health Workers Association of Liberia and international partners to ensure the availability of medical equipment and personnel at various ports of entry and quarantine centers to robustly respond to all suspicious and confirmed cases of COVID-19, additionally, all quarantine and withholding facilities should meet standards of best human rights practice,” said Dempster.
Dempster, quoting the World Health Organization (WHO) health policy indicated that the right to health must be enjoyed without discrimination on the grounds of race, age, ethnicity or other status, which according to him requires states to take steps to redress any discriminatory law, practice of policy.
“Another feature of rights-based approaches is meaningful participation. Participation means ensuring that national stakeholders—including non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations, are meaningfully involved in all phases of programming: assessment, analysis, planning implementation, monitoring and evaluation,” Dempster added.
The CSO Platform said it is organizing people to be deployed in the field to monitor the activities and get information about how the government is meeting the health need of people at quarantine and treatment centers to ensure that their rights are protected and respected in line with the right to health.
In its recommendations, the CSO Platform asked the government to respect and apply human rights to health measures in the wake of COVID-19 in Liberia; provide a daily update on the country status with regards to COVID-19, communicate through one official spokesperson to avoid misinformation, and ensure protection for citizens to include health workers.
Additionally, the CSO Platform called on the international community to provide all necessary assistance and support to combat COVID-19 during and after the pandemic.