At first glance, it would appear as though things are normal with the movement of people going about their normal business, giving the impression that the much feared and talked-about Coronavirus did not matter or does not exist. Although the virus has been wreaking havoc in Europe, Asia and now the United States which has become the epicenter, Liberia has remained relatively unscathed with total number of deaths standing below five.
The deadly virus is already having a devastating impact and posing immense challenges to health systems around the world. The Coronavirus pandemic has indeed exposed the inadequacy of the health system of the United States of America prided as the greatest country on earth, yet faltering in responding to public health emergencies. This is because access to health care in that country is based on ability to pay and not on need. The dysfunctionality of such arrangements has exposed the underbelly of a national health system based on privilege.
In the case of Liberia, the 2014 Ebola crisis exposed the mess of a health system structured on similar lines as that of the United States where the need to address national public health concerns is severely undermined by restrictions imposed on public spending by IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Policies.
As a result of such policies, the nation’s largest referral hospital, John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK), has been virtually transformed into a private health facility charging exorbitant fees far beyond the reach of the ordinary Liberian. This can easily explain why hospital administrators, going all out to ensure that every dime charged is collected, have adopted practices such as involuntary detention of recovered patients unable to pay the high fees charged or detention of corpses until families of deceased individuals until the fees are paid.
The 2014 Ebola crisis did not only expose the weakness of the country’s health system, it also exposed the corrupt nature of the government under whose watch millions of dollars of intended to be used in the fight against the virus disappeared and remained unaccounted for today. Meanwhile, public hospitals and clinics remain perennially short of needed drugs and other related inputs. Including electricity supply. And this is in the face of a threatening Coronavirus of global proportions.
The situation is aggravated by what appears as a seeming lack of vision and commitment to tackling the immense caseload of problems confronting the country. Corruption of the runaway kind remains pervasive and suggestions that Liberia was left out of the package of assistance to several African countries owing to what is considered as the corrupt management of Ebola funds under the Sirleaf government holds true. If, for example, ordinary items like surgical gloves and syringes are lacking at public health facilities around the country, how is it going to address the pandemic which is already manifesting itself in Liberia?
On any given day in central Monrovia, groups of young people clad in reflective jackets can be seen in various neighborhoods around, going from house to house in what they call a Coronavirus awareness exercise. The fact that these groups of youth have or carry with them no Information, Education and Communication (IEC) tracts conveying specific and targeted messages suggest that the exercise is a mere public relations gimmick designed to enable unscrupulous officials access resources dedicated to the fight against the Coronavirus.
Such was the case during the 2014 Ebola crisis where money was available and where accountability mechanisms for such funds were at best dysfunctional or virtually non-existent. In the case at bar, government officials appear to be using the crisis to advance their political fortunes and illegally siphon off resources intended to be applied to the public good.
The display of false generosity has now become fashionable as can be observed with Ebola faucet buckets emblazoned with the photos of government officials including President Weah. This is to convey the false impression that government officials are so caring for the people that they have provided buckets for hand-washing. Not leaving the production of Coronavirus awareness music to the country’s artists, government officials have instead metamorphosed into song artists and writers, all for the purpose of tapping into donor funds for their pockets.
Meanwhile, GoL’s information dissemination mechanism remains as dysfunctional as ever. For strange and less than honorable reasons a toenail full of journalists and media institutions have been selected as media through which dissemination of relevant information to the public is being done. This unorthodox measure is clearly intended to enlist the support of media willing to ignore the financial indiscretions of officials entrusted with public funds.
Truth be told, the fight against the deadly Coronavirus will be won not through the actions or gimmicks of public officials but by Liberians themselves falling back on the same level of resilience and cooperation that beat back the Ebola scourge. In the absence of anti COVID-19 drugs, testing kits, face masks etc, Liberians will have to turn inwards and soul search for solutions.
In this regard, local health authorities should consider looking into the efficacy of traditional cures for the common cold and chest infections. Since the virus is known to be a respiratory ailment, in the absence of ventilators to clear mucus from air passages, traditional people, particularly the Kru people use hot kanyan pepper down the throat or sit under a blanket or thick cloth with a bucket of very hot water with lime and ginger and steam-up. One thing is sure, it will not kill! It will help.
Otherwise, mix lime, ginger, garlic and the “Life Everlasting Leaf and bring to boil. Strain, then add honey and put on low heat all the while stirring until the solution becomes viscous. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Thereafter, one tablespoon three times daily is recommended. A bowl of hot pepper soup that will make snot run from the nose is also recommended, particularly during evening time.
US President Donald Trump, in desperation, has called on Americans to turn to Chloroquine — innovation, they call it. The Daily Observer recalls that Innovation, Cooperation and Resilience beat back the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia. Can we do it again with the Coronavirus? YES WE CAN!