The biting effects of the Coronavirus are beginning to stamp its presence with grave implications for the health and economic wellbeing of the Liberian people, particularly for those in Montserrado and Margibi counties which have been placed under quarantine. Monrovia, the country’s largest population center is, for now, the eye of the storm.
Monrovia, however, is dependent on the flow of agricultural produce from rural areas outside the quarantined areas. The Red-Light and Duala markets are the two largest markets in the city and they serve as a feeder to the other markets such as Old Road, Rally Time and West Point markets.
On the other side of the coin, agricultural commodities destined for Monrovia will not come and producers will experience tremendous difficulties trying to source new markets for their goods. Resultantly, a large number of commodities are going to perish and farmers/producers will incur huge losses, recovery from which may prove daunting and an uphill challenge.
Already, shortages are beginning to appear not only in the stores and supermarkets but also in the markets around town. Sooner or later the shortages will become crippling. This is because, with Margibi and Montserrado Counties under lock-down, agricultural goods from outlying counties such as Lofa Bong and Nimba, the major breadbaskets of the country, will not reach the population of Monrovia, currently playing host to well over a million people.
To make matters worse, the general lack of pipe-borne water where residents have to scramble for water daily is a problem that will have crippling effects on Monrovia residents. The lack of electricity is another serious challenge facing residents of Monrovia. GOL hospitals and clinics are running without electricity and, of course, in many cases without drugs.
Then, of course, is the deplorable sanitation situation in Monrovia with faeces flowing through the streets. In the face of such conditions, the imposition of a total lockdown for the country has grave implications for the health, safety and security of the people.
More to that given, all the above, no one should expect that people will not go roaming the city for water, for instance; neither should anyone expect that people will not go out to find food to feed their families. This is not like Europe, Asia, America or even Rwanda where basic health and other infrastructure are neither lacking nor are, they food-insecure countries, highly dependent on food imports from abroad.
Lest we forget, the Ebola virus disease was by far more dangerous than the Coronavirus but during the Ebola crisis, there was still a movement of people in and around the city. Attempts to impose lockdowns on communities around Monrovia proved disastrous with the shooting to death of little Shaki Kamara by a GOL security officer in West Point during the 2014 Ebola crisis.
This development sparked public anger and GOL acted swiftly to defuse the situation by lifting the blockade. As things currently stand, there is no robust public education on the Coronavirus or where individuals can be tested in case, they begin to show symptoms of the Coronavirus.
During the 2014 Ebola crisis, local people (community residents), especially those in rural areas, armed with the information provided, organized community tracking and tracing teams. Working in tandem with Health authorities, they established their own quarantine centers where anyone showing tell-tale signs of the disease were held and transferred by ambulance to the nearest treatment center. Health authorities would do themselves well to draw lessons from the Ebola experience. Similar measures can be applied to this case of the Coronavirus and it can be held at bay.
Above all, and as mentioned earlier, accountability will prove crucial. President Weah should ensure that his officials remain compliant with integrity procedures and processes attending the provision of assistance and the use of the same for the public benefit. The theft of funds and misapplication of material resources intended to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus should be scrupulously avoided and, for the deterrent effect, anyone found remiss or culpable should be dealt with harshly but in keeping with the law.