In the Face of Ebola, Will Liberia Always Take Reactive Measures and Not Preventive Ones?

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From a sick bed (thankfully typhoid at least), I flipped the pages of newspapers and browsed various online news sources. Then I got constrained to write on why our country will not be preventive but rather always choose to find “cure” after contamination over preventive measures. (And unfortunately, there’s no known cure or vaccine for this one as of yet.)

Not even in the face of one of the worst deadly viruses ever to hit our country is enough for our authorities to exercise more preventive and cautious measures.

Just within a week, at least seven Liberians have so far died from Ebola, including the ‘tracked’ lady from Foya to Monrovia to Harbel, according to a Health Ministry disclosure on Thursday. Additionally, reports that about 13 health workers are currently quarantined in Lofa due to Ebola suspicion warrant urgency. I mean this is rather scary!!!

While faraway Saudi Arabia, Canada and even relatively closer Senegal have all decided to take preventive measures against this generation-threatened epidemic called Ebola, Liberia is still dragging her feet as far as preserving Liberians and residents-alike from this virus some have even preferred HIV-AIDS over. Can you imagine?

As Liberia continues to debate whether it should close its borders with neighboring, infested Guinea and even with Sierra Leone that reports suspected cases of Ebola, Saudi Arabia has made no secret of its fear for Ebola despite the mammoth distance between the Middle East and West Africa. So, it wasted no time in taking a rather undisputed decision to deny Hajj visas to Muslim travelers coming from both Guinea and Liberia (and probably to soon extend same visa denial to Sierra Leone).

Senegal, for its proximity and as a neighbor to Guinea, neither debated the issue but closed its border to Guinea. The North American country of Canada had to isolate one of its nationals who had left here for several days.

But for Liberia?  Whoa. It’s still a matter of debate whether it should close its borders with Guinea (and if I may add, those with Sierra Leone) in the glaring face that all of Liberia’s seven Ebola deaths wouldn’t have happened if infested and suspected Ebola victims had not come from Guinea.

I will personally now take a direct vibe at Dr. Walter Gwenigale and Dr. (Senator) Peter Coleman, current and former health ministers respectively, who are leading the charge for us to not shut down our borders with Guinea (and I maintain, those with Sierra Leone).

Dr. Gwenigale, during a recent news conference cited a Geneva Convention under some “International Health Regulations” that prohibit us from doing so even in the face of a tsunamic-like Ebola. “Don’t close the country when we have a situation like this but we can put people in closed areas and prevent them from contaminating others”, Dr. Gwenigale justified non-border closure measures as he quoted whatever health regulation.

With all due respect to the learned health expert, and with all commendations to Minister Gwenigale for the Ministry’s efforts so far in helping to curb the virus, I think he and all those who insist in abiding by these “International Health Regulations” need to know that it will be the very Geneva and other Western groups that would surface here in a rather-late approach to curb the situation while at the same time “pumping” and “withdrawing” funds from such situation when it shall have reached boiling or (God forbid) uncontrollable point. I then wonder if Senegal is not also a signature of this so-called Geneva health treaty.

Then Dr. (Senator) Coleman’s stressing of ‘commerce and trade’ between Liberia and Guinea is probably the worst disgusting one. That we get bitter-balls and peppers from Guinea means that the entire nation should perish?

The argument that “we need to monitor those going and coming through the borders” sounds so weak and sickly like an infested Ebola patient. Lest I be misunderstood: these two health experts may mean well for Liberia and I no way intent to question them professionally except that I feel professionals at times stick too much to the rules at the detriment of the very profession they are protecting unknowingly.

I also recognize the Government’s efforts through the Health Ministry: regular update of information on Ebola, citing other preventive measures, the arrival of body suits for health workers, among others but such as suggested above, is important. 

But Liberia’s problem of always wanting to take cures or vaccines or treatments instead of preventing sicknesses is very visible in the country’s prioritized primary health care delivery opposed to a prioritized preventive health care system.

There are so much efforts and resources that go into primary health care than a preventive or awareness system despite the common saying that “Prevention is better than cure” which health authorities themselves always advertise.

And so, may we finally now suspend whatever Geneva health regulation forbidding us to shut down our borders during such a national emergency and proceed with fighting Ebola? May the National Legislature now desist from even debating whether it should declare a National Emergency on the matter and proceed immediately with measures that will help safe our country from an emerging endemic that would potentially rank second to the just ended civil war in terms of the destruction of precious Liberian lives?

Seven lost lives and 13 quarantined health workers are not only enough to claim our immediate attention, but to also claim our urgent actions including the closure of the Guinean (and Sierra Leonean) borders in addition to the US$1.2 million being sought. Yes, our borders are very porous (I guess as Senegal’s borders with Guinea are) and could be very difficult to do, but this would limit, in my mind, the rate of even suspected Ebola cases.   

After all, if the DRC and Sudan no longer mention Ebola, of course we can overcome it too but again, God helps those who help themselves.   

 About the Author: Nat Bayjay is a Media Consultant/Communication specialist. Doubling as a PUL Best Investigative & Best Environmental Journalist in 2011, Bayjay uses his journalistic profession to always highlight issues in the country including political, economical and socio issues through in-depth articles and news analyses. He’s reachable on: [email protected]/0777-402737.

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