With about six cases of the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) reported by heath authorities so far in Nimba County, controversy abounds as citizens find it difficult to accept that the virus is in the county or those who died really did so from the virus.
Despite medical reports about the troubling health status of the county, preparation of a holding center to accommodate would-be patients of the virus remains at a standstill with no area yet identified.
Every attempt being made by the Nimba County Health Team (NCHT) has either been opposed or appears not feasible due to economic circumstances. Residents have expressed fear that erecting a Coronavirus treatment center near their communities may have a spillover effect on them. In one instance, the Nimba County Health Team reached out to people in Kpain Township in District #8 for the old compound once used for agriculture and health purposes
But people of the area have expressed fears that the area is too close to the town and it is possible that the disease would spill over into the town.
In another instance, county authorities and the NCHT attempted negotiating with the Saclepea Comprehensive Health Center earlier, but were unable to secure any space there. Sources say news of the death, at the facility, of Don Patrick which locals suspected was due to COVID-19, could have been reasons many patients stopped attending treatment at the health facility.
In Ganta, county authorities and the NCHT decided to use the Francis Maweah Public School as a holding center, but met with stiff resistance from community members. They observed that the school is located at the center of the city and students going there may be stigmatized if the school is used as a holding center. The local people have therefore deployed Poro Masters there to prevent it from being used as a Coronavirus holding center.
The Ganta Methodist Hospital compound, where an Ebola Treatment Unit was once located, became another option but the hospital administrator, Allen Zormonway, in recent times said after the Ebola the entire center was demolished and those materials used to build the center were all looted.
According to Zormonway, they had entered negotiations with the NCHT and agreed to provide the cafeteria for use as a holding center. However, Zormonway said they put forth demands that most of the frontline workers at the center should be provided by the hospital, and all materials including electrical appliances that would be used in the building should remain with the hospital.
“Since we had the meeting, the county health team has not come back to get the place for a holding center,” said Mr. Zormonway. The youth leader of the Meinpea Administrative District, David Nyaquoi, is one of those who expressed dissatisfaction over the establishment of COVID-19 holding centers in Kpain. He believes that establishing the Center at that location will endanger the lives of the residents.
Speaking on local radio station in Saclepea, Mr. Nyaquoi said COVID-19 is a dangerous disease, which spreads quickly, especially when an individual comes in close contact with an affected person.
In another development, authorities and the NCHT reached out to the LPMC Community on May 13, 2020 to negotiate for the Leila Guest House, but they were resisted by the community members on grounds that the area is surrounded by residential building and schools. Notwithstanding, lawmakers of Districts #7 and #8, representing the people of Kpain and Seclapea respectively, have given support and approval for the establishment of holding centers in the controversial areas in both towns.
Both Representatives Roger Domah and Larry Younquoi, in separate statements, told the citizens to agree to the suggestion establishing COVID-19 holding centers.
Rep. Younquoi of District #8, who is currently in the USA, said, “Having holding site near you is good, because even in the USA, people are crying for treatment centers to be closer to them.”
However, he has advised the government to ensure that the planned holding center is well protected to avoid any spillover of the infection to the communities.
Nimba County Health Officer Dr.Sahr told the Daily Observer that the authorities have put some safety mechanisms in place for the operation of the sites in Saclepea and Kpain. “Where we are now is in the process of meeting the community people to present the county’s plan”.
Dr. Sahr said the county has allotted some money for the two centers to be renovated and training of manpower to get the centers ready immediately for operation.
Also speaking on the matter, Nimba Superintendent Nelson Korquoi told this reporter that a budget has been allotted from the County Social Development funds to get these centers ready with all necessary equipment, drugs and needed materials to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, the Statutory Superintendent of Saclepea Statutory District, Mr. Arthur Gonkartee Sahn, has set up a 35-member district taskforce to respond to all COVID-19 activities.