Monrovia- Three major events are happening almost simultaneously in Liberia. In March of this year, the deadly Ebola virus had hit Liberia. By August, the outbreak was almost uncontrollable bringing the entire nation to a standstill. With international goodwill, heroic efforts of healthcare workers and a change in attitude towards the virus by Liberians, the trend is slowing. While Liberians are trying to shake off the dust from their feet and look ahead, there is a challenge of elections.
Traditionally, Elections have been a source of enormous crowd pulling and tension, with supporters of political parties and Independent candidates negating the issues at bay and thriving on trivialities. Due to the outbreak of Ebola, the initial date for elections was postponed to December 16. A writ of prohibition by some citizens further pushed the date to December 20, just five days short of the Christmas Celebration. The Christmas festivities are marred by huge influx of people from across the country, descending on the capitol to shop for the holidays. Elections and Christmas combined would mean a double effect of citizens’ amalgamation hustling and bustling for competing needs.
There are genuine fears that the mass movement of people as an effect of elections and shopping for the Christmas holidays might reignite the outbreak that took tears, sweat, blood and lives to reverse.
As the effect of the Ebola outbreak showed, it has the proclivity to bring an entire nation to its knees and shatter every single gain made. Ebola has proved to be a serial killer that has successfully preyed on its victims. It brought to near collapse an already frailed healthcare system, nearly wrecked an economy, shut down schools, cut off a nation from most parts of the world and exposed a people to great stigmatization. These are scary signals that need not relapse. The downward trigger effect of another outbreak is synonymous to the effects of a civil war. We simply cannot afford it. Policy makers and politicians must realize that the common interest of the nation rests in its political stability, resuscitated economy and the health of its citizenry. Everything else is secondary. As Ebola has shown, great gains can be reversed in days and months when caution is left to uncertainty. Another outbreak is suicidal and we cannot afford the shock. There are reports of supporters of political parties marching in streets, hanging on jammed parked vehicles and huge gathering of people in a show of numerical strength. Rival groups have engaged in street fighting thus exposing each other to unnecessary touching and sharing of bodily fluids. This is foolhardy for a nation that has shut down schools across the country, instructing every home to keep a bucket of clean water for regular washing of hands and asking the world to help us out.
Politicians are obliged to caution their supporters to see the effect of Ebola not only as a health epidemic, but also a national security concern. It could possibly undermine the purpose for which they are striving to get elected. Significant gains seem to be made in the fight against Ebola in Liberia, thus making us a model and a success story in the region. Liberian health care workers and care givers were amongst the 2014 personalities of TIME magazine, with Dr. Jerry Brown of the ELWA hospital named personality of the year .In her reason why the Ebola fighters are TIME’s choice for the person of the year, Editor Nancy Gibbs is quoted as saying, ‘They risked and persisted, sacrificed and saved.’ She quotes a proverb that ‘Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, says the proverb, but rather the hero’s heart’. She goes on ‘But 2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic, powered by the very progress that has paved roads and raised cities and lifted millions out of poverty. This time it reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place. One August day in Liberia, six pregnant women lost their babies when hospitals couldn’t admit them for complications. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one’.
We have to sustain the fight. The war is still on. The effect of Ebola has left several kids orphaned, families completely broken, rise in unemployment, cultural adjournment, and emotional scars.
When the dust settles on December 20, elections would be over, politicians would go on holidays and we will wake up to a nation that had rendered itself vulnerable to a virus that takes no prisoners. Ebola, Elections and Christmas seem a lethal combination when mixed in the same pot. Each has its own challenge and needs to be dished separately. Ebola is the toxic to the mix. Let’s get it out completely. When Ebola flees, we can all laugh aloud and tell a story. Until then, everyone stay put.
About the Author:
Lekpele Nyamalon is a Liberian and lives in Monrovia. He can be reached at [email protected]