In an outright angry tone, several Liberian Senators on Tuesday, August 19, suggested that the fight against the Ebola epidemic be outsourced, arguing that the Government of Liberia has been overwhelmed and no longer has the capacity to contain the disease.
In almost three hours of heated and emotional debate, the majority of the Senators cited instances demonstrating that the Task Force headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf does not have the expertise to handle the situation.
The Senators’ expressed anger was prompted by a communication from President Sirleaf, informing that august body of the establishment of a parent body that will encompass all satellite bodies in the fight to contain the Ebola virus.
Eventhough President Sirleaf’s communication welcomed the Senators to attend all meetings organized by the National Response Committee (NRC), they argued that there was no reason why they must be asked to be included in the Task Force. “We must not ask, but demand a direct role as Legislators.”
One of the major bones of contentions for the Senators’ outrage is that the lawmakers and their local authorities want to form part of the current Task Force’s operations, especially in areas of sensitization and awareness campaign.
The Senators further argued that despite their initial approval of US$5 million and later US$15 Million, there are still cries for more funding, and that the situation in the counties is getting worse day by day.
Those who expressed discontent over the handling of the Ebola crisis suggested that the situation be turned over to groups like the Médicins San Frontiers and other international health-related organizations, which have experience from past outbreaks.
“Over two weeks since the declaration of the State of Emergency, there are no indications to show that we are winning the war against Ebola. We need to change our strategy because we have too much bureaucracy. We need to outsource the management of the Ebola outbreak to a non-governmental organization that has the resources,” one Senator argued.
Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Zulu Jallah for his part told his colleagues that the Task Force made a mistake to have established an Ebola center in the highly congested slum community of West Point.
He proposed to government to consider the building of Ebola centers in isolated areas or places; rural communities not inhabited by human beings with security protection throughout the country.
Another effective measure to fight the Ebola epidemic, according to Senator Jallah, is for government to restrict the movement of all citizens within the country for one month period and have certain business people licensed to carry out the needed goods to those areas.
Senator Jallah made reference to an alarming statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that about one million people may die in the sub-region from Ebola before it is contained.
Maryland County Senator John Ballout in a passionate tone, decried the lack of a workable organizational strategy, evidenced by the number of bodies still being found on the streets.
Despite the Senate’s approval last week to allow President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s request for US$20 million to help adequately fight the Ebola epidemic, the Senate representative on the Ebola Task Force, Dr. Peter Coleman, informed his colleagues Tuesday that the Force needs more funding, which will be used to purchase vehicles and logistics for county superintendents and other local government officials.
The Grand Kru Senator further disclosed that the first approved US$5 million was used to order about 20 ambulances, the unavailability of which has been one of the hindrances in the fight against the Ebola disease.
On his colleagues’ recommendation that the fight against the disease be outsourced, Senator Coleman reminded them that the disease has been outsourced three weeks ago, by the coming into the country World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other international bodies.
He claimed that at least 50 percent of the bodies that are picked up are not Ebola related.
Meanwhile, a three-member committee was Tuesday appointed to compile all contentions raised at the plenary for onward presentation to the Task Force by Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley. The Senate secretariat will work with Senators Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence, Mobutu Nyanpan and John Ballout.