President Sirleaf: ‘Gov’t Won’t Outsource Ebola Fight’

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Amidst many calls for the government of Liberia to outsource to internationally acclaimed health organizations, the fight against Ebola that continues to wreak havoc on the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that government will do no such thing.

Speaking at the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at the ELWA, where two medical practitioners that were cured of the Ebola virus were presented to her, President Sirleaf said: "There's nobody that cares more for people than the people themselves”.

Dr. Sengo Omeoga, a DR Congolese, and Physician Assistant (PA) Kandy Kobah, who were last Saturday released from the ELWA ETU,  were recipients the Ebola experimental drug, ZMapp.

President Sirleaf’s comment was in reaction to barrage of calls from Liberian lawmakers as well as international organizations that the government and its many functionaries that are spear heading the fight lack the requisite expertise, experience and knowledge required to contain the virus.

The head of Medicins Sans Fontiers (MSF) also known as Doctors Without Borders, recently called for United Nations intervention  — military medical expertise–  to  effectively combat the scourge n West Africa.  

Several Senators over a week ago, suggested during a plenary session that the fight against the Ebola epidemic be outsourced to experts such as MSF and Samaritan’s Purse,, arguing that the Government of Liberia has been overwhelmed and no longer has the capacity to contain the disease.

In a lengthy debate that became heated and emotional, a majority of the Senators cited instances demonstrating that the Task Force headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did not have the expertise to handle the situation.

Their expressed anger was prompted by a communication from President Sirleaf, informing them about the establishment of a parent body National Response Committee (NRC) that will encompass all satellite bodies in the fight to contain the Ebola virus.

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 fight 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.

The lawmakers noted that over two weeks since the declaration of the State of Emergency by the President, there were no indications to show that the war against Ebola was being won.

“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,” the Senators pointed out.

The Senators’ assertions were also echoed by the Liberia National Red Cross Society, which cited poor coordination between the functionaries of the government that are heading the Ebola fight.

But speaking at the ELWA hospital compound, President Sirleaf endorsed a statement made by Health Minister Walter Gwenigale that Liberia will not relinquish the Ebola fight to non-governmental organizations as was being suggested by some stakeholders and members of the public.

The President stressed that the fact that Liberian doctors and nurses and health practitioners are taking care of their people, as evidenced by the effectiveness and efficiency of the Liberian-run ETU where the two medical practitioners got cured, shows that "we need to give them the support so that they can continue to do the good work."

The Liberian leader expressed appreciation that Liberians were taking ownership and said she was further encouraged by the motivated health workers at ELWA Ebola Treatment Center.

Former Health Minister and senator for Grand Kru County, Dr. Peter Coleman, has argued that the involvement of international health bodies like Médicins San Frontiers, WHO and others in the fight suggests that it is already being outsourced.

The contention of many now is that the government should not be leading the process, as there have been and will continue to be, many lapses in the process, if government continues to spearhead the process. Those who are also demanding for the outsourcing are also citing accountability and transparency issues, which they allege that government lacks.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf had also rejected the WHO’s prediction that over 20,000 people will die in the affected countries before the Ebola disease is contained.

"I do not accept that   prediction—no! I say no to that. Tell them that may be their arithmetic and calculator’s projections, but we will solve Ebola so that we do not have those numbers of people dying. That's our challenge; that's our responsibility; that's our commitment that we must make to ourselves to prove them wrong," said the Liberian leader.

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