Reporter Gloria Tamba last weekend found her way to one of the towns hardest hit by Ebola—Grand Cape Mount County’s Jene Wonde, which lies on the border with neighboring Sierra Leone. That country was one of the three in the Mano River basin hardest hit by the deadly virus. And because the borders are so porous, when the disease flared up again in Sierra Leone last August, Jene Wonde was devastated. It lost some 50 people to the virus.
That was indeed scary for Liberia, which was at that point showing definite signs of success in its battle with Ebola. But the town was quickly quarantined and the virus was not allowed to spread to other parts of the county.
Yet even in the capital city, Monrovia, there are also disturbing reports of serious neglect being experienced by survivors from West Point, one of the nation’s most deprived communities. Survivors there complain of lack of food or even shelter—indeed total neglect.
But as the Ministry of Health and Incident Management System, the body chiefly responsible for leading the anti-Ebola crusade know, it is one thing to declare an area Ebola-free. But there are many other serious issues that face an area and its people after such a deadly attack. The first is ensuring that the environment is totally free of any of the vestiges (traces, remnants) of the virus. This means that all of the beddings, mattresses used by the viral victims are burnt and buried. Some of the West Point survivors are currently complaining bitterly that their beddings and even their houses have been burnt, yet there is no help in sight for them. One woman told a local newspaper that she has become totally homeless, and has to sleep on the streets.
The second problem for survivors is to ensure that they are properly fed and provided with constant health care, so that the slightest detection of illness is immediately brought under control.
Reporter Tamba says that there is only one clinic in Jende Wonde, a town of 2,500. And it is now being used as a holding center for anyone found sick of any disease whatsoever. What eases pressure on the clinic to an extent is that following the August outbreak, many of the people fled the town and have not yet returned. But it will not be long before they return and surely, one clinic will not be enough. That, we think, is an urgent matter that the IMS and the Ministry of Health need to deal with.
Ms. Tamba quoted townsfolk as saying that the World Food Program (WFP) has supplied each family with 20 cups of rice, which finished quickly and the WPF has not yet been back.
The same situation faces West Point survivors, though worse yet, they lack even sleeping places because of the added, even overwhelming problem of stigma. In many cases, even their own relatives shun them and so they have no place to dwell save on the streets.
We think these are very serious issues that should claim the immediate attention of the MOH and the IMS. For there is one great and good thing for Liberia to be rejoicing in the welcome slowing down, nearly complete disappearance of deadly Ebola. Yet we are faced with the overwhelming reality of the survivors—what happens to them. Today our most immediate concern is with the plight of those in Jene Wonde and in West Point.
We plead with Messrs. Tolbert Nyensweah and Dorbor Jallah of the IMS and the Ministry of Health to devise a plan to take care of the needs of surviving communities—food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, medicines and general welfare. It must be realized that these survivors are totally destitute, have nowhere to go and in but a few instances, no one to care for them. Their only hope is their government and a few, very few caring neighbors and NGOs. Who else but their government can these hapless people turn to?