The deadly Ebola virus is raging unstoppably in Liberia, ravaging lives and disrupting life as we knew it, including our already fragile economy.
Our ever alert Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor told the nation Friday that within the last 48 hours the virus had claimed 10 lives. This is indeed alarming, and calls for a rapid response, lest Ebola overtakes not only Ganta, one of the nation’s largest commercial hubs outside the capital, Monrovia, but the whole of Nimba County as well.
There have already been many deaths in Sanniquellie, Nimba’s capital, in Saclapea and in Tappita, some of the county’s leading towns. To date, there have been 105 suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola deaths. The situation is so bad that County authorities have suspended one of the most important economic activities—the weekly “market days” in various towns. The reason, to limit people from distant towns and other places, including other counties, coming into close contact with one another, as happens on all market days throughout Liberia.
Ever since Dr. George Way Harley, the ingenious American Methodist missionary doctor, built the Ganta Hospital, it has been a blessing not only to the Nimba people but to many from southeastern Liberia and even Bong County as well. Dr. Harley came to Liberia in 1926 as part of the Harvard Medical Expedition, and once he set foot in Ganta, he never left. He built the Ganta Methodist Mission, the hospital, including a nursing school, and a leper colony, to help people in that part of Liberia afflicted with leprosy.
But today, Ganta Methodist Hospital is down. It has been hard hit by Ebola, leading many of its staff to shun their duties for fear of catching the virus. They would not have had to do that had they been equipped with the personal protective equipment (PPE) required in such a dangerous health and medical environment. But Ganta Hospital seems to have been forgotten. We cannot understand why the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH) has not undertaken a rapid response to this hospital, which for decades has been, before the Chinese built the Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita, the main medical institution in Liberia’s second most populous county—Nimba.
ArcelorMittal, the iron ore giant operating the mines in Yekepa, is building Ebola treatment at the Ganta Hospital, but it has been slow to complete. Nor is there any indication of the rapid supply of equipment, PPEs and other necessities demanded by such a facility at such a critical time, when lives are being lost on an hourly basis to a deadly, incurable virus that now seems clearly now out of control.
We do not know why it has taken the iron ore giant so long to complete the Ebola treatment facility. Nor do we know how long it will take the MOH to send in the equipment and supplies required to make the facility effective.
This brings us immediately to the doorsteps of United States military and medical contingent which President Barrack Obama has graciously deployed in Liberia to help us defeat Ebola. We know that it will take them time for all of their men, equipment and supplies to arrive and be made ready for deployment, but we appeal to Major General Darryl Williams, head of the contingent, to visit Ganta ASAP. This visit will enable him and his health and medical team to understand the urgency of the situation and engineer a rapid response to halt the Ebola carnage.
General Williams has already met with Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and reassured him that they are here to help defeat the virus. We pray that the Defense and Health Ministers will help speedily to facilitate the General’s visit to Ganta, in order to organize and implement a rapid response to this looming catastrophe in Nimba County.