Lofaians Struggle with Ebola Stigma

    Coach Komala.jpg

    Amid news about the Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea—with suspected cases in Liberia—Liberians in Nimba County are becoming skeptical about associating with people of Lofa County; from which a number of suspected cases have been diagnosed.
    Monitoring a community radio (Radio Kergheamahn) program recently in Ganta City, Nimba County, community members strongly opposed a football tournament scheduled to be held among Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.

    Speaking on a popular morning show that highlights community, national and international news, the community members said that information about the virus shows that it is contagious and was quickly making its way out of Lofa County; to the dread of the county’s neighbors.

    Although the tournament went ahead as planned, education authorities and other callers on the show ordered students to stay away from the game to avoid mingling with people from Lofa County.

    The community dwellers who suggested cancelling the game earlier noted that they were afraid to go against medical advice against shaking hands, or making other body contacts.

    “We do not know which one of the people from Lofa has the disease, and they are coming here to play with people in our area.  It is very risky for us and our children.  The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has advised that we take preventive measures by not making body contacts. People cannot come from Lofa County where suspected cases have been noted, to play against people here.  Our students should abandon this game to avoid contracting Ebola,” one caller said.

    As a result of the plea to give up the tournament, less than 500 spectators turned out for the game, which badly affected gate intakes.

    The Liberia Football Association (LFA)-staged tournament is meant not only to prepare teams for the county meet, but also for soliciting funds to support the association.

    According to Ms Roseline Saye, who headed the gate-intake team, she was able to realize L$4,050 (about US$47) from the three matches—an amount she said was far below what they normally take in when people turn out in full for a game in Ganta.
    She attributed the low-intake to calls from community leaders and others to stay away from the game because of Ebola.

    Speaking to our reporter on the J.W. Pearson Sports Pitch, the coach of the Muslim Star from Lofa, Amara V. Komala, said information about Lofaians having Ebola could cause trouble.

    According to him, negative reports about any region take a financial toll, and if things got worse, Lofaians might consider registering their concern to the Liberian Government and public through a demonstration.

    “As far as we Lofaians are concerned, there is no Ebola in Lofa.  Red Cross and the Ministry of Health [and Social Welfare] are just lying to get money from the international community to eat.  But if they continue to spread bad news about us and our countrymen neglect us, we will rise up and express our concern in whatever way we can,” Komala stressed.

    Also speaking, Nimba County coach, Muta Fofana, rubbished the call for people to avoid the game and noted that those who made the call are not medical practitioners.

    He said they were going beyond their limits by creating a condition that will cause other Liberians to be stigmatized.

    Meanwhile, since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in neighboring Guinea, information about it in Liberia has spread as bush fire.

    Medical sources have shown that 27 suspected cases have been noted in Liberia and 13 suspected deaths have occurred from the virus, which has 90 percent case fatality.
    Of the 27 suspected cases, 1 had been reported from Nimba, 1 from Margibi and 1 from Montserrado; and the rest? From Lofa County!


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