The Looming Epidemic at Douala’s Stinking, Garbage-infested Market

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Guess who pass regularly through the stinking, garbage-infested Douala Market many times, even on a weekly basis! Speaker Alex Tyler, all other Members of the House of Representatives and all Senators, respectively, from three western counties—Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount!

There are more—former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, who runs a huge oil palm plantation in his native Gbarpolu, current Finance Minister Boima Kamara and current Deputy Finance Minister Moses Kollie, all Gbarpoluans.

And guess who else: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who hails from Bomi and frequently visits her farm in Julijuah!

Yet these top Liberian government officials who, run for or assume their offices on pledges that they would seek the highest interest of the people, drive regularly by force through the Douala Market garbage because there is no other way to get home. Why?

Because they think they are unaffected since they speed through the filth-infested corridor in their dark tainted glass windows in their GOL SUVs, totally unperturbed (untroubled) by what their impoverished, hapless people have to go through daily.

You think President Obama, President Ouattara or President Paul Kalama would ever pass through such a nasty terrain and do nothing about it? God forbid!

These Legislators, who have since 2006 made themselves among Liberia’s highest paid people, do not give a fig about the destitute masses slugging it out in filth and stench, with babies on backs and children in hands, to eke out a living for themselves and their families. These poor, hardworking folks have NO OTHER CHOICE!

The situation is so terrible that one Senator admitted to this newspaper that he, too, rides a tainted glass SUV—why? “Because I don’t want the Douala people to see me passing through their filth-infested area; they would say, ‘There goes Senator So and So who cares less about what we are going through.’”

Our environmental correspondent Edwin M. Fayia, in his last Thursday’s Douala Market story, quoted Madam Hanful Meata Dukuly who threatened “to get married in the filth” to draw government’s attention to marketers’ plight.

That reminds us of Leyma Gbowie’s threat at Liberian Peace Talks in Accra because the warlords were engaged in prolonged, useless arguments, while Liberians were dying at home every day. She threatened that the women would strip buck naked if the warlords did not come to their senses. The uncaring and unscrupulous warlords and other participants quickly got serious and the conference began to make fast progress.

Perhaps Madam Dukuly should carry out her threat, and the Daily Observer would mobilize the media—newspapers, radio and television, with ace photographer Sando Moore in tow, to blast to the world her wedding in that dangerous, nasty, scandalous setting.

Does the Ministry of Health have a Sanitation Department? It does, headed by Director Yeabah. He and MOH Minister Bernice Dahn and all the other SUV-riding officials know only too well about the mountains of garbage at the Douala and Red Light markets. Yet they sit and wait for another deadly epidemic to break out before buying GOL-paid air tickets to run to the WHO in Geneva and other donors to beg for money to address the purely man and woman-made disaster.

Does Monrovia City Council have a Sanitation Division? Does Mayor Clara Nvogo consider Douala part of Monrovia? What about Paynesville City Council? Does the General Service Agency (GSA) have one? At least its Director General, Mary Broh, knows all about fighting filth. Mayors Nvogo and Gibson should take a leaf from her action script: put on your trench and boots, grab a shovel and lead the charge! It is no job for being polite or shrinking from the filth that you are paid to remove by folks who have to sit in it every day all year round to make a living because you did not take care of it. In spite of frequent ridicule and condemnation, we must admit that Mary Broh gets the job done effectively (sometimes with force) and that’s what is needed.

Do the Senate and House have Chairmen on Health and Sanitation? Yes, they do; and the Senate’s Chairman on Health is Dr. Peter Coleman, MD and former Health Minister.

We cannot help but recall the Health Minister who, upon taking office some years ago, was advised by this newspaper to pay keen attention to sanitation. We have quoted his reply often in this Editorial Column: “I did not become Health Minister to clean anyone’s backyard!”

But look what later happened: Ebola blew up in our faces, with Liberians dropping dead in their thousands—the death toll rising to over 4000, the sub-region’s worst.

But we have forgotten it all and ignored one of the things that caused Ebola to hit us so hard—nasty mountains of garbage in our densely populated marketplaces that expose tens of thousands of our people to all kinds of deadly diseases.

Now we know why October 10, 2017 is an extremely important and serious date. We need to get ready and look HARD and CAREFULLY to choose those who will lead us.

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