Relief Required for Quarantined Counties

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The Liberian government last week quarantined several counties, meaning that people traveling from them are prohibited from entering the capital, Monrovia, the nation's most populated city, which is also part of Montserrado County.

The quarantined counties are Lofa, Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi, in Western Liberia, where the Ebola virus is reportedly prevalent.  The
aim is to protect this highly populous city, the nation's capital, from being further contaminated.

This makes sense, since most of the people entering the country, foreigners and Liberians alike, head for central Monrovia once they land at the nation's main airport, Roberts International, and from the Free Port of Monrovia, the nation's main seaport that lands travelers here from across the seas.  The aim of the four-county quarantine is to protect Monrovians from contamination from the Ebola virus.

BUT–and this is a BIG BUT — what is the fate of the people in the quarantined counties?  Many of them were en route to Monrovia when thequarantine suddenly affected them Thursday evening, stopping allvehicles from entering Monrovia from those places. The travelers fromLofa, Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi had no idea that they were to be prevented from entering or re-entering Monrovia. Many of them were only paying temporary visits to the destinations from which they were returning, and suddenly, totally unbeknownst to them, they were caught in the quarantine.

There were others who were paying quick visits to Monrovia, hoping to return during or over the weekend and suddenly, found out that they could not even reach their destination, Monrovia. Because of the spread of the Ebola virus, very serious military restriction, enforced by fully armed men from the Armed Forces of Liberia, had been put in place.
Many of these hapless people, trapped in a situation they were totally unaware would befall them, have had to sleep in the vehicles they were traveling in, or place themselves at the mercy of total strangers, people along the route they do not know.

Several questions immediately arise: what is the fate of these travelers? How are they to eat, sleep and be taken care of until their quarantine is over?  More importantly, what is the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in the quarantined counties–Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi. Commercial vehicles travel to these counties daily carrying not only passengers but food, regular supplies of various kinds, including medicines.  What will be their fate?

 
Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly, when contacted about the urgency of the situation, reminded the Daily Observer about prevailing conditions during the war, when so many areas were cut off for weeks, if not months, and people did what they had to do under those circumstances.

But Minister Dukuly, fortunately, disclosed that each of the entrance points to these quarantined counties is manned by a "multi-agency team
comprising the Ministries of Health and Defense as well as the Liberian National Police (LNP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), which are available to render whatever assistance they can.

In addition, the Minister indicated, the Liberian government and partners are prepared to provide various kinds of assistance to the people in these affected counties.  Though he did not elaborate, he implied that some of this assistance included food and medicines.

But there are clearly logistical challenges that such relief initiatives would encounter, including how people in remote villages within each county are to be reached, and how the health centers, especially those catering to expectant mothers, are to be helped.
 

One suggestion that could be advanced is that the GOL engages the telecommunications companies, especially Lone Star MTN, which operates the Mobile Money transfers to many parts of thecountry. Through this method relatives, friends and associates in thecapital and elsewhere could channel much needed funds to their peoplein these quarantined counties as emergency relief.

 
But the underlining purpose of this editorial is to plead with the Liberian government to understand the serious and multifaceted implications of its decision to quarantine these four counties, and do whatever it can to bring relief to its affected populations who, through no fault of their own, are caught in these  extraordinary and unpredicted circumstances.

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