Our Presidential Correspondent William Harmon yesterday made an important contribution to the anti-Ebola fight when he wrote a comprehensive report on the President’s recent visit to Lofa County.
His coverage dwelt not only on speeches. As a good Observer reporter he spotted trucks full of goods coming from Guinea through the Kolahun checkpoint. He also noticed people crossing the border on foot.
Harmon then quoted the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) coordinator of the Foya Ebola Treatment Centre, Dr. Serge St-Louise, who told President Sirleaf that indeed the spread of the Ebola virus had substantially slowed down. But he quickly warned that the spread could resurge if GOL relaxed its monitoring of the borders.
Dr. St-Louise told the Liberian leader that treatment centers along the borders with neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, specifically Macenta and Gueckedou, were reaching full capacity with cases. He warned that though significant gains had been made in Liberia, GOL should enforce security measures at border areas. The aim is “to prevent a recurrence of how the virus was transmitted from Guinea and later spread throughout the country.”
“The Liberian Government,” observed Correspondent Harmon, “seems not to be acting on MSF’s warnings since cross-border trade is still ongoing, with no stringent security measures yet in place, leaving many Lofa residents fearing for the worst.”
It seems to us that the new Minister of Health and Social Welfare, should he ever get confirmed by the Liberian Senate, will have to hit the ground running. George K. Werner will have to work very closely with the Ebola Incident Management System to ensure that the Liberian public continues to follow strictly ALL preventive measures the MOH has put in place.
As the country’s top Health officer, Minister Werner, in collaboration with Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, and the Ebola Management System, must ensure that the government and people heed all the warnings of MSF and the medical and health partners.
The Liberian people in particular, who are normally given to good time, will have to continue to restrain themselves and follow all the anti-Ebola measures.
But beyond these, we wish again to repeat our advice to government, contained in last Friday’s editorial, that the borders with the two affected neighboring countries, Guinea and Sierra Leone, should be strictly monitored, in order to avoid a recurrence of what happened last March in Foya. It was into Foya that one affected person crossed from Guinea, leading to the spread of the virus throughout the country.
Correspondent Harmon’s spotting of the two trucks loaded with produce from Guinea is a serious eye opener. It tells us that the borders are NOT being carefully monitored.
Can we not see what happened in Grand Cape Mount County last week? The Ebola virus suddenly began spreading again in the Town of Jene-wonde on the Sierra Leone border—why? Because the borders are not being closely monitored and people are still crossing in droves, without any protective mechanisms in place, such as hand washing buckets, thermometers, etc., to ensure that infected people do not cross the border into Liberia.
That is why Correspondent Harmon, in his story from Foya yesterday, asked whether the Liberian government is heeding MSF’s warning.
Let us again recall what happened recently in N’Zerekoré, Guinea. A team of health workers entered the town to spread awareness and sensitization about Ebola. The townsfolk got angry with them and killed eight of them!
Remember, too, the traditional practice among Muslims of bathing the dead. We saw what happed right here in Banjor, Virginia across the St. Paul Bridge, where such practice led to scores of Ebola deaths, until the Muslim authorities in Liberia finally got the message across to them that in this season, it was a dangerous and deadly practice.
We plead with the government to heed the MSF advice to carefully monitor the borders as one of the cardinal measures to stop the spread of the virus in Liberia. The most effective way to do this is to deploy Liberian and U.S. soldiers at our borders. This is part of the U.S. military mission in Liberia: to fight and defeat Ebola.