By Varney K. Sirleaf from the Plantation
Residents of two of the most affected communities in Sime Darby Plantation known as Married Camp and Kennedy Camp have expressed fear that there might be an outbreak of skin and other diseases in the not too distant future if nothing is done by the Government and the Company’s Management to prevent it. The residents who spoke to the INQUIRER on Tuesday explained in an angry tone that they have lost their livelihood since the explosion, stating that ‘right now we are only surviving on alms from the company’.
Two of the residents of Married Camp, Michael Varney and Yusuf Turay, Jr. said the chemical explosion has caused serious damage to their communities.
They explained that the communities have been warned not to drink, wash with any running creek or river within the area; they also said they were told not to eat any green or food stuff produce from their communities, thereby restricting them to only eat the little ration they are getting from the company.
“They stopped us from eating our potatoes greens, cassava leaf, pepper and bitterballs; only what Sime Darby giving us is what we used for food everyday”, they narrated.
They also expressed serious disappointment in the way the company is handling the issue of their medication, indicating that they were only given few antibiotics with some oilments as medication without any laboratory test.
Another resident of Married Camp, Victoria Wleh, said she is afraid because her skin has been developing something strange since the explosion.
Mrs. Wleh warned that if an urgent and proper medical intervention is not made to those communities affected by the explosion, the worst thing that is not expected could happen.
For his part, Mr. John P. Kolleh who is said to be the Camp Master of ‘Married Camp’ said there are lots of complaints from the residents of the town since the incident took place.
He said some of the people are complaining of skin burn, dry throat and burning chest on a daily basis since the explosion.
The Camp Master stated that there are about 400 family heads in Married Camp according to the census they conducted.
“We conducted census here after the incident to have proper information on every resident of this town. Sime Darby has been supplying us with water, and assorted food items,” he said.
He explained that every family head gets 10-15 chicken feet, 1 sack of plastic mineral water and few cups of beans per day.
Mr. Kolleh also said he is frustrated about the way Bomi County Authority is treating them stating ‘we have not seen the presence of any official of the county in this Camp since the explosion; are we not part or citizens of the county?’ he asked.
He also called on the Disaster Management Team at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the President, Speaker, the Senators and Representatives of Bomi County to quickly intervene in this situation before it gets out of proportion.
“My fear is that within the period of three months, there could be an outbreak of various diseases in these affected camps,” he concluded.
When the County Superintendent was contacted, he termed the allegation as fictitious and fabricated lies by some residents of Married Camp.
Superintendent Samuel Brown further said he and other county officials visited the affected sites and the company to make sure that the rightful thing was done in the proper manner.
He however stated that the County Disaster Management Team cannot intervene because of the lack of capacity and training, lamenting that Bomi County was never represented when the Government of Liberia sent people to Ghana for Disaster Training.
For his part, the Spokesman of Sime Darby, Mr. David B. Kolleh, said there is no way a resident of the Camp who is suffering from the explosion will not go to the Clinic.
Mr. Kolleh said the first place of medical intervention should be the Plantation’s Clinic where all those who are not satisfied with their current health condition are supposed to go for check up.
“The mobile team that is going around the town is there to find people who did not report themselves when they got affected by the explosion,” he said.
He stated that the company is working closely with all of the relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other disaster management institutions.
Mr. Kolleh concluded that for now they cannot tell when the process will stop, except a team of experts come to test the water and to determine which approach to take next.
Meanwhile, when the Bomi County Senator Sando D. Johnson was contacted via cell phone, he also confirmed that he has not visited the people as they said, but stated that he and other County officials are working tirelessly with all of the relevant government agencies to help tackle the problem the residents are face with.
He said there has been several meetings between they and the company’s management stating, ‘all of the food and other assorted items being supply by the company came as a result of the meeting between the government and the company’, he said.