Deputy House Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hans Barchue, has accused Grand Bassa County local authorities of “mismanaging Ebola-related money intended for the entire county.”
He accused Superintendent Etweda S. Cooper as being engaged in what he called an “unequal and unfair distribution” of Ebola materials, ranging from rice, beans, cooking oil, plates and cups provided the county by the World Food Program (WFP), a claim Madam Cooper has since denied.
At a district Ebola awareness and sanitization workshop in Compound #1, Grand Bassa County over the weekend, Deputy House Speaker Barchue indicated that amongst the 1,500 bags of rice provided by WHO, only five bags were given to District #1; “A place badly hit the by the Ebola virus.”
“The County Legislative Caucus approved US$100,000 for the fight against Ebola. In that money, local authorities should have procured two pickups, six motorbikes, rice and other things to supply the isolated centers. In addition, WFP sent 1,160 bags of rice to the county; 85 bags of beans; 42 cases of sardines and other canned foods, as well as 105 gallons of gasoline to the county.
“But of those things sent, only 10 bags of 25kg rice were sent to my district of 11 clans; a district mostly affected by Ebola.
“Out of 85 bags of beans, only 45 cups were provided for two isolation centers created in the entire district. I considered this as a big disgrace. Regrettably, the rice and beans are all finished.
“I raised the issue with the Caucus but am yet to receive redress. This is about transparency and fairness because our people are dying at the hands of Ebola and we need to be serious in our responses as a government,” Deputy Speaker Barchue declared.
In reaction to Deputy Speaker Barchue’s claims on the food issue, Supt. Cooper acknowledged that “yes, the amount of rice was received from WFP,” but she dismissed being directly being involved with the distribution.
“There is no containment unit in the entire District #1 and for that reason we could not give more food to the district because there are no patients there at the moment.
“In the food distribution,” she added, “we were instructed by WFP to give five (5) bags of the 25 kg rice for five Ebola patients in one isolation or containment center per month. That was not a decision of the county authority alone but every stakeholder in the fight,” Madam Cooper asserted.
Relative to the closure of selected markets in the region, Representative Barchue maintained that such measure “seriously undermined and defeated the fight against the killer disease.”
He noted that closing the market further imposed “economic hardship on the already poverty-striken people of the county.”
According to him, closing the markets, particularly in District #1, denied residents from surrounding communities the opportunity of procuring batteries, salt and other basic commodities that stand to help in information dissemination to the largely uneducated population.
“Closing the market is totally wrong. This measure brings hardship to the ordinary masses. Montserrado, Lofa and Margibi Counties did not institute similar measures. Why now has this been done in Grand Bassa? he asked.
In separate interviews, Leroy Gibson of Owensgrove, Obediah C. Yasuah of Dolo Town and Ma Mary Zoegar, all marketers, expressed disenchantment with the decision of the local authority, stressing; “This has brought untold suffering to our lives.
“We’re unable to address the welfare of our families because this restriction,” they said.
Responding to these assertions, Madam Cooper disclosed that there were meetings held with local authorities before said decision was reached.
“We held meetings with the commissioners and district superintendents and we were advised by the County Health Authority before taking the decision.
“The markets we shutdown are not regular markets, such as those in Monrovia. Those are places where people gather once a week and the traders are people that come from various locations. We have to restrict movement in these places.
“This Ebola thing is killing our economy and we need to act faster to prevent or contain the spread,” the Grand Bassa County Superintendent indicated.
Market days in several counties, where people gather from distant places to bring their goods for sale have been suspended.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, in collaboration with National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), organized and conducted a day-long Ebola sanitization and awareness training of trainers forum intended to spread anti-Ebola messages across the county.