West Point was in total chaos on Wednesday, as crowds of its citizens went on a rampage, throwing stones at the police and officers and men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who had come to restore order.
There were rumors that some of these West Pointers were determined to march on the Foreign Ministry building, which houses the office of the President of Liberia, and ask her to step down.
The riot stopped and the crowds dispersed only after AFL men started firing into the air, demonstrating that they meant business.
The government, convinced that the people were angry at the sudden quarantining of West Point earlier this week, attempted to mitigate the anger by sending in truck loads of rice, oil, water and other items. The government also reckoned that since the whole area is quarantined, with no one able come out or go in, it would be prudent to send in the relief supplies, to meet some of the necessities of the quarantined township.
West Point Commissioner Miatta Flowers told the Daily Observer yesterday that she had engaged all the community leaders, including the Kru, Fanti and Kissi governors, the elders, women and youth, to assist in the distribution of the relief items.
The move on the Township by the Joint Security, backed by the AFL, followed a violent Tuesday night, when people from the township stormed the facility where suspected Ebola patients were being observed and cared for. The West Pointers terrified the patients and looted the entire area, taking away beddings, mattresses, furniture, medical utensils and medicines that were being used on the patients. The great fear is that some of these looted items may have been Ebola-infested. Frightened by the incident, the patients fled the facility and found their way among the general population, a highly dangerous situation that could lead to the spread of the Ebola virus if some of the patients had been tested positive.
We understand that the reason for the attack on the Ebola testing facility was some of the residents’ disbelief that Ebola really existed.
This demonstrates the continuing education and awareness challenge which government and its partners face. Just as the President said in her message announcing the nationwide curfew, many of the infections and deaths are due to denials and cultural and religious practices.
The people of West Point have now returned to the government and said they want the quarantine facility to remain in the township. It is not clear what GOL’s response will be. But perhaps it might be a good idea to relocate it in another less volatile area, far removed from the densely populated area that West Point is. A quarantine center should in a place where health workers can concentrate on the work they have to do, and patients can enjoy peace and tranquility, a prerequisite for any kind of healing.