6 August 2014

Liberia: Ebola Calling - Liberia's Political Elites Pitch in to Curb Deadly Virus

Photo: Liberia Government
President Sirleaf consoles a health worker at the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia as they mourn the death of a colleague.

Monrovia — There is a common saying that "to whom much is given much is also expected in return" and this could be manifesting itself in current day Liberia as the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus which is causing deaths is serving as a turning point where politicians in Liberia are under the microscope as electorates look up to them to prove whether they are indeed in the interest of the people whom they always claim to love dearly.

As Liberia grapples with the calamity from the deadly Ebola disease which now has 479 probable, confirmed and suspected cases as of August 2, FrontPageAfrica looks at what the politicians and political parties are doing to help their people during these difficult times.

The Ebola fight is drawing attention and goodwill from a cross spectrum of the society as many are crossing the line of disagreements on policies and other differences and galvanizing efforts to fight the virus.

In what is so far known as the darkest week in the Ebola fight from July 27 to August 2, where the country reported 173 new cases and 94 new deaths some politicians formed a concerted front during this period against the virus with both ruling party, oppositions as well as legislators and legislative aspirants all making contributions in the efforts by government to eradicate the deadly virus.

Government takes lead

The country is known to be politically charged at all times, where politicians and political parties go all out against the government, although in some instances engaging in constructive criticisms of the government but on the Ebola fight there seems a common front by all as the donations by politicians have become overwhelming since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared the situation a national emergency, announcing the Government initial commitment of US$5 million to the National task Force to Fight Ebola.

In making the contribution, the President said "As such, the Government of Liberia is today contributing the amount of US$5 million as our initial contribution to begin the immediate implementation of this plan".

Although the President's donation was made from the state coffers, but the stance has ignited the fight with massive supports from all corners.

Some politicians maybe carrying out personal efforts and donations in the fight against Ebola quietly but notable amongst politicians who have heeded to the national call are the Chairman of the Ruling Unity Party, Cllr. Varney Sherman, the opposition Liberty Party, senatorial aspirants in Montserrado County, Robert A. Sirleaf and Christopher Z. Neyor, the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Representatives Saah Joseph and Ballah Zayzay, amongst others.

Liberty Party's $15K Ebola Donation

The United States of America branch of the opposition Liberty is one of the biggest donors so far announcing a US$10,000 contribution in cash and US$5,000 in kind to the Ebola war.

The LP-USA announced "Following extensive efforts by the Party and its USA branch, LP-USA, the National Executive Committee of Liberty Party is pleased to announce today that it is contributing US$10,000 ($5,000 in cash and $5,000 in kind) as its initial contribution towards the fight against the deadly EBOLA virus now ravaging the country. The cash donation is being made to Samaritan's Purse and the Liberian National Red Cross who are active in providing preventive measures, monitoring and care-giving. The $5,000 in-kind donation, which consists primarily of protective gear, is being made to community groups organized by LP District Coordinators in various districts throughout the country".

The Liberty Party action comes after the LP-USA initiated and successfully hosted a teleconference for Liberians in the United States to provide information on the spread and prevention of the Ebola virus which they can then provide to their friends and families in Liberia. The teleconference followed several rounds of consultations with United States health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and the State of Texas' Department of Infectious Control.

LP stated that during the conference, which lasted for about one and half hours and attended by approximately 400 persons, an expert from the United States Centers for Disease Control provided valuable information on the spread and prevention of the Ebola virus.

Besides the donation, the Liberty Party said it will engage in consistent and continued mass campaigns in the print and electronic media using updated information from the US Centers for Disease Control and public health advisory from the Ministry of Health to educate and inform the public of the risk and hazards involved in confronting this virus.

The Party disclosed that its National Executive Committee has constituted an internal joint Ebola Task Force with Benjamin Sanvee and Edith Gongloe in Liberia as Coordinators and Philip Suah in the United States as Coordinator.

The task force, the party stated will coordinate the party's efforts in the fight against Ebola and will work collaboratively with and support the efforts of the Government of Liberia's National Task Force and all Liberians and institutions involved in the national campaign to eradicate this deadly virus from our country.

Sherman's support to Grand Cape Mount County

As transportation and other logistical constraints are now a problem facing health care workers in the fight against the Ebola virus, the Chairman of the ruling Unity Party on Monday, August 4 donated one ambulance, Motorbike and helmet, six Mega-Phones and some pieces of safety jackets to the Health Team of Grand Cape Mount County to help fight the Ebola virus.

During the donation held in the strategic town of Bo Waterside, bordering Sierra Leone which has reported cases of the virus, Cllr. Sherman donated the items to the health team of the county to beef up their efforts in creating awareness and also using the vehicles and motorbikes to cater to suspected patients and also picking up the sick.

Robert Sirleaf's 10k to Fight Ebola

Montserrado County senatorial aspirant Robert Sirleaf in urging Senators and Representatives in Liberia's national legislature to take the war against the deadly Ebola outbreak to their various constituencies paid homage to health care workers in the line of fire.

Lamenting the fallen and endangered health workers, Sirleaf said: "I would like at this moment, to pay a very special tribute to the health workers that are making the ultimate sacrifice to save patients affected by the Ebola. I also express my deepest sympathy and condolences to all the victims and the families who have been affected."

He announced that his office has taken two additional steps in identifying with victims and hardly-hit communities: "First, we are donating preventive materials valued at ten thousand United States Dollars ($10,000 USD/or 810,000 Liberian dollars), to the (17) districts of Montserrado."

"These items will include faucet buckets, Clorox, chlorine soap etc). We will begin this distribution program tomorrow, Saturday, August 2. We encourage all others to do the same. Secondly, will also continue to support media institutions to sensitize the public about the disease."

He then encouraged and thanked health workers for their continued invaluable services to the Liberian people as he reiterated the threat of the deadly virus. "Ebola is here, Ebola is real. Together we must fight; together we can win to contain Ebola."

Chris Neyor Salutes Health Workers with L$250K

Montserrado County Senatorial aspirant Christopher Neyor serving as guest speaker at a program marking the 34th Initiation of the First Year Medical Students of the A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine of the University of Liberia applauded the work of health workers and donated to fight Ebola.

"Health workers are the first respondents during the outbreak of any disease; and you cannot send your soldiers to battle without empowering them. Any government that does that means it does not love its own people", Neyor said

He called for support o Health care workers, stating "We should give health workers gears not only to help the patients, but to also protect their lives. Health workers lost their lives; they are now afraid. And the way to avoid that is to ensure that the necessary protective gears are provided".

Neyor and his Morweh Energy which he heads provided the amount of LD$250,000 to help purchase preventive gears for health workers.

He stated that the gesture would help bring courage to the health workers while carrying on their respective functions in the midst of the epidemic and pointed out that the purchasing of the protective gears for the medical practitioners would be done by the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) in collaboration with the Liberia Medical Students Association (LMSA).

ANC Provides 1K support through Samaritan Purse

The Alternative National Congress of Liberia (ANC), one of the newest political parties has also donated $1,000 to the fight against Ebola. The ANC made the donation to the Liberia Ebola Response Project of Samaritan's Purse, www.samaritanspurse.org, an internationally recognized US-based humanitarian organization with more than 40 years of experience in charity work across the world that is now at the center of the fight against Ebola in Liberia.

The NGO to which the ANC made the donation currently operates two Ebola case management centers in Liberia that provide direct medical care to Ebola patients. In that connection, the organization is delivering critically needed equipment and supplies to more than 350 personnel, including a disaster response team composed of medical doctors and other health care workers, who are battling the Ebola crisis.

The ANC stated that it is convinced that with Liberian health care professionals working together with Samaritan's Purse and other organizations, including the World Health Organization and the United States Center for Disease Control, Liberia will ultimately win the fight against Ebola.

"However, we believe there is an important lesson we should learn as a people and a country from our Ebola experience: the need to improve our public health system so that we can better respond to future public health emergencies", stated the ANC.

The party lamented the deaths from the Ebola virus stating "We certainly are going through a very difficult time as a nation and the hearts of all of us here at the ANC go out to those who have lost loved ones to Ebola. It is our national duty to ensure that they did not die in vain".

Representative Saah Joseph's Ambulance team

With Montserrado overwhelmed by the number of dead bodies uncollected, the Representative of Montserrado County, District #13, Congress for Democratic Change is one individual who has won the admiration of many Liberians some of whom do not reside in his electoral district.

The lawmaker since the increase in the number of suspected Ebola cases has used his private ambulance to pickup suspected Ebola patients and dead bodies from communities in his district and beyond in collaboration with the Red Cross.

The team which in some instances is led by the lawmaker himself has been applauded in several communities in the Gardnersville area for transporting sick patients to medical facilities.

Lawmaker Ballah Zayzay's Initiative

Margibi County Representative Ballah Zayzay took the bull by the horn in distributing buckets and chlorine at strategic points in district number two.

"Today is the official launching of the awareness against Ebola in Margibi County [and Liberia] where citizens will put together to chase Ebola out of this country," Zayzay said on July 31 as he placed a bucket filled with chlorinated water in front of the magisterial court in Unification Town, Margibi County.

The police depot, which is a stone's throw away from the court, also benefitted from the distribution and its commander was full of praises to Zayzay.

"This is a step taken to save lives. And it is highly welcoming honorable for you to take your own money in buying these materials to spread the message on the fight against Ebola" said Police Commander Comfort Johnson.

"As of today, everybody who will come here must first watch their hands before my officers will talk to you. As police officers, we will keep a little distance away from people who will enter here," the police officer expressed.

The Harbel Community College, which began preparatory classes but is now closed due to the presidential mandate, and the checkpoint, which serves as an entry to Firestones also received buckets and chlorine.

Zayzay's immediate neighbors and other places, like the market hall, which attracts many persons, were given buckets and plastic bags of chlorine.

The lawmaker did want to be drawn into how much it cost him to secure the buckets and chlorine. And for him the lives of his people are precious than silver and gold.

Although official campaigning for the midterm senatorial election is set to begin this August and the 2017 general and presidential elections is still about four years away but politicians have thrown aside their political difference and are collaborating on this fight against Ebola.

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