President Blames Liberians for Spread of Ebola

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The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has imposed a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew nationwide.

She said although the government has done its part with a few successes, the virus continues to spread across the country.

 “It has thus become necessary,” the President announced, “to impose additional sanctions to curb the spread overall and particularly in those areas of intensity.”

She announced the following measures, therefore, which she said are to be “urgently enforced:

– The communities of West Point in Monrovia and Dolo Town in Margibi are quarantined under full security watch.  This means that there will be no movements in and out of those areas;

– All entertainment centers are to be closed;

– All video centers are to be closed at 6:00 p.m.;

– Commencing Wednesday, August 20 there will be a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.”

The President’s statement justifying the curfew places the blame squarely on the citizenry of Liberia for “continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the Government”.

While this may be true to some extent, the Government of Liberia takes absolutely no responsibility for not having met its end of the bargain.

The GoL had instructed communities to call the Ebola Response Center hotline to ask health workers to come and pick up bodies. All over the country, however, the major complaint is that many communities have made every effort to comply with the Health Ministry’s directives and recommendations, but have often had to take matters into their own hands because health teams have been extremely slow to respond.

Just Tuesday, Rep. Byron Brown of Grand Bassa told State radio that 35 people had died in his district. After his office called the Response Center, health workers took seven days to arrive. By the time they did arrive, communities had buried the bodies independently.

Health experts have said that the Ebola virus is at its most contagious in corpses. When bodies are left to rot for days unattended to, communities are forced to make decisions, and at their own risk.

Another Montserrado representative complained Tuesday that health teams are extremely slow in picking up bodies. In one instance, he said, bodies remained in the Mt. Barclay community for five days before the health team arrived. By the time they finally arrived, maggots had germinated in the body, and chickens had begun eating them.

As such, the government’s accusation against the Liberian public for being responsible for the spread of the virus could be judged as unfair and not entirely accurate.

With so much international aid coming into the country to help combat the scourge, it is unclear how the government of Liberia is expending the funds if it does not even have enough vehicles with which to retrieve infected bodies.

It remains to be seen whether the curfew imposed will have a diminishing effect on the spread of the virus, and whether the government and health authorities will step up their pace in responding to emergency calls or continue to force communities to handle dead bodies at their own risk.

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