By Morrison O.G. Sayon & Victor Hanson
In compliance with the Government of Liberia’s mandate as directed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in her nationwide address, many public and private buildings remain closed on Friday to ensure that their respective offices are sanitized as part of the fight against the Ebola virus.
Ebola has spread to West Africa mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia with the death tolls of at least 729, the World Health Organization has said. The virus has killed dozens of health workers in Liberia some of whom were Medical Doctors and Government officials.
As a result of this, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently declared last Friday a Non-working day for all Liberians including those working in the public and private sectors and the day was observed by Liberians in their numbers with the sanitization of their various offices and homes.
Many of the citizens used sanitizers, faucet buckets, detergents and chlorines to clean their offices and reporters observed for the first time that Liberians came together in the fight against the Ebola virus. Also as announced by the Ministry of Justice, commercial drivers are complying with the mandate by the Liberia National Police by carrying the minimum numbers of passengers in their respective vehicles.
Our reporters also observed that most government and public institutions have been complying with the instructions given by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the sanitization of facilities. At the same time, Liberians are also following the preventive measures announced by the Ministry of Health recently.
On Friday, several public and private institutions visited by The INQUIRER’s reporter observed that several institutions have taken the preventive measures by chlorinating their offices to ensure that the Ebola epidemic is eradicated in the country.
Some of the institutions that have taken the preventive measures include, the Liberia National Red Cross Society, Ministry of Labor, GSA, Ecobank, NOCAL, National Port Authority (NPA) and Liberia Petroleum Company (LPRC) among others.
In an interview with some of those who chlorinated their institutions, an employee of LNRCS, Christopher O. Johnson said the country has reached a stage where every Liberian has to take precaution in ensuring that their families and the entire country is Ebola free.
Mr. Johnson said, “The date August 1, that was declared as a non-working day to be observed as disinfection and chlorination of all public facilities by President Sirleaf, was not set aside as a day for merry-making but to save the country from the deadly Ebola virus.
He added that some Liberians who doubt the existence of the Ebola should stop and take preventive measures because the Ebola epidemic is very terrible and dangerous, and is real.
Mr. Johnson said, “The sensitizations that are going on in the country will assist in eradicating the deadly Ebola virus in the country, and they are asking every Liberian to keep up with the preventive measures that have been carried on by them (citizens) in the country,” he concluded.
Since the intensification of the use of the preventive measures as announced by the Ministry of Health, there has been no report of any new case of the virus though some of those affected by the Ebola virus have been dying from the virus.
Meanwhile, Liberian women have begun a National Prayer against the Ebola virus. The women under the banner of WANET and other Liberian women have been praying fervently for their nation that has just emerged from nearly 14 years of devastating civil conflict.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Ebola viral disease outbreak confirmed in three of four member States of the Mano River Union (MRU), leaders of the sub-regional organization have committed themselves to taking stringent measures aimed at eradicating the deadly disease that has already claimed the lives of over 700 persons.
At an extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government of the MRU held in the Guinean capital, Conakry on Friday, the leaders agreed in a Joint Declaration, to among other things, impose a cross-border isolation zone at the epicenter of the outbreak, considered the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the disease.
“We have agreed to take important and extraordinary actions at the inter country level to focus on cross-border regions that have more than 70 percent of the epidemic,” said Ambassador Dr. Kaba Hadja Saran Daraba, Secretary General of the MRU, who read the Joint Declaration.
“These areas will be isolated by police and the military. The people in these areas being isolated will be provided with material support,” she said, adding, “The health care services in these zones will be strengthened for treatment, testing and contact tracing to be done effectively.”
The MRU Secretary General, who did not specifically outline the exact area to be part of the isolation zone, but the epicenter of the outbreak has a diameter of almost 300 kilometers (185 miles), spreading from Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone to Macenta in southern Guinea, and taking in most of Liberia’s extreme northern forests.
“The healthcare services in these zones will be strengthened for treatment, testing and contact tracing to be carried out effectively,” she said.
The MRU leaders also agreed to provide health personnel incentives, treatment and protection so they could come back to work. “We will ensure the security and safety of all national and international personnel supporting the fight against Ebola,” the leaders assured.
Considering Ebola as an international problem that requires an international response, the MRU leaders committed themselves to doing their part to bring the Ebola outbreak to an end as soon as possible. However, they urged the International Community to support Member States build capacity for surveillance, contact tracing, case management and laboratory capacity.
“We the Heads of State want to assure the international community that the disease is not being exported,” the Joint Declaration stated, assuring the International Community that the three countries have instituted measures at international ports of entry/exit.
The MRU leaders committed themselves to mobilize private and public sectors to work in synergy and increase sensitization efforts to enable communities to understand the Ebola disease for effective and efficient eradication.
They further pledged to strengthen the surveillance of cross border movement through information sharing on screening of passengers, among others.
Opening the summit, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan termed the first outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa as “unprecedented”, accompanied by unprecedented challenges, which are extraordinary.
Providing the MRU leaders with some frank assessment of the situation, Dr. Chan revealed that the outbreak was “moving faster than efforts of control it”.
“If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries,” Dr. Chan said. She described the outbreak as “by far the largest ever in the nearly four decade history of this disease”.
“It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks,” she told the summit. “Cases are occurring in rural areas which are difficult to access, but also in densely populated capital cities. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.”
In addition, the WHO Director General said, “the outbreak is affecting a large number of doctors, nurses and other health care workers, one of the most essential resources for containing an outbreak,” adding, “These tragic infections and deaths significantly erode response capacity.”
She stressed that the situation in West Africa is of international concern and must receive urgent priority for decisive action at national and international level.
The MRU leaders used the summit to launch a US$100 million (€75 million) action plan that will see several hundred more personnel deployed in the affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers, among others to battle the epidemic.
The MRU leader mandated President Alpha Conde of Guinea, who is current Chairman of the sub-regional organization, to convey the message of the Union related to Ebola to the U.S. -Africa Leaders Summit in Washington later this week.
The other two leaders, Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma will remain in their respective countries to coordinate individual National Action Plans against the disease.
All the MRU leaders signed for their respective countries except for Côte d’Ivoire who was represented by the Health Minister Dr. Raymonde Goudou Coffie.