-Call for concerted efforts to combat virus
Groups of influential Civil Society Organizations are calling for a concerted national effort to be led by the President of the Republic of Liberia, George M. Weah, to combat the virus that is now affecting the population at an alarming rate.
The groups, which are working on Democracy, Governance and Accountability issues, said such national effort must rally the support of all stakeholders, including political parties, private sector, religious community, civil society and media, traditional leaders, women and youth groupings etc.
The CSOs include the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-Liberia), Accountability Lab Liberia and Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL),
Speaking on behalf of the group at a press conference in Monrovia, Anderson Miamen said the CSOs are concerned about the current national health pandemic (COVID-19), which could potentially undermine the economic, social and political stability of Liberia.
“As these threats loom, the CSOs are calling on President Weah to show leadership if Liberians are to emerge victorious out of this crisis,” Miamen said.
“At the moment, we are not seeing the level of leadership, coordination; community engagement and timely information sharing that characterized the fight against Ebola,” Mr. Miamen, said, “Therefore, we wish to call on the government to build on existing structures and resources used during the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to save resources and timely eradicate the virus.”
The group wants the government to strengthen its COVID-19 response preparedness and make contingency plans in an event of escalation in cases.
“This preparedness should include, but not limited to support to health centers and getting health workers prepared to deal with the outbreak; providing the necessary resources; incentives and rallying around for adequate PPEs and other equipment. At this moment, it is imperative for a stronger decentralized rapid testing to identify and respond to cases,” he said.
As the number of COVID 19 cases surges with 3 reported deaths already, it is imminent that the country will have to go on a lock-down, drawing examples from countries where the virus is far more perilous.
As such, Mr. Miamen noted, “We are concerned that in an event of a lock-down, the attending economic impact on poor and vulnerable communities will be dire as many families will face hunger and starvation.”
He recommended that the government makes provisions to address the economic impact of any imminent lock-down on poor and vulnerable communities, especially women and children.
He said the CSOs are concerned that in an event of a lock-down, the attending economic impact on poor and vulnerable communities will be dire as many families will face hunger and starvation.
To help boost communication and reporting of cases and citizens accessing online information about COVID-19, he called on the government to consider re-introduction of the unlimited three-day free call and data package for at least 3-months;
“We also call on the government to intervene by requesting all commercial banks to suspend loans and interest payments for the period of 3-months. This will alleviate the pressure and economic impact on businesses,” he said.
To enhance transparency, accountability and bolster public trust and further enhance donors’ confidence, the CENTAL head called on the government to establish a framework that regularly tracks and updates the public on all Coronavirus related donations (financial and non-financial) and expenditure.
“We wish to encourage all international partners, civil society organizations and media institutions to integrate health awareness and COVID-19 in their programs,” he said.
The group cautioned against what it called selective isolation and quarantine of preserved persons who may have come in contact with asymptomatic individuals. “We believe that this undermines the fight against the virus especially contact tracing and therefore call for vigorous enforcement.”
The four organizations expressed commitment to remain constructively engaged in supporting national effort to combat COVID-19 as was done during the Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia.
Many have frowned upon the President’s decision to work from home at a time when he should be leading the national efforts to combat the virus. The CSOs said they are yet to see any semblance of leadership from Weah that would ensure a successful fight against the COVID-19.
“We saw the level of leadership that was exerted by President Sirleaf and the massive mobilization that she and her team employed during the Ebola the country. Those efforts led to a successful fight that even made country to be the first to be declared free of the virus,” a CSO leader recalls.
Weah has been working from home since the country recorded its first two cases. Many are wondering as to his actual involvement in the response as the president of the country.