Monrovia — Patrick Kollie a commercial driver is stuck behind a makeshift checkpoint at Clay Junction in Bomi County. He said he has been there for hours and that the Armed Forces of Liberia has refused them entry into the side that leads to Monrovia. Kollie is angry that the government did not properly inform people before taking steps to quarantine the area.
"The security told us that we have not been going to Monrovia for 21 days. We've been standing here for over seven hours," he said. "I saw some of them trying to advance arms and I decided to leave the area and go to sit elsewhere. They said three days fast and prayer, but to our uttermost surprise they are saying we can't go to Monrovia. Is this the fast and prayer we're going through by denying us movement to see our family? This is unfair."
The AFL is deployed in the region to restrict movements from five counties in an operation codenamed 'Operation White Shield' announced on Thursday less than 24hours after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency. The army seems to have been deployed before the President announced the state of emergency that gives the government power to operate outside the constitution and go to lengths that could trample on civil liberties.
Many people on each divide of the thin line that was hanging at the checkpoint looked weary and many had not had access to food or taken a bath, according to what FrontPageAfrica gathered on Friday from eyewitnesses. "I came from my home Cape Mount, I came to buy, but on my way back, the army people stopped us, they say nobody going," said Ma Amie a business woman in her late 40s.
A young breastfeeding mother identified as Esther, sat with her baby crying uncontrollably. She said she has changed him with all the available diapers she had and she needed water to wash them but there was no water. The young mother told FrontPageAfrica that she lives in Cape Mount but went to Monrovia to visit family, but on her way back home the army stopped her from crossing the checkpoint. She slept in the car with her baby and other passengers.
"I just see the people say you'll don't go. No way to change him because the diaper everything was wet," she said. But Defense Minister J. Brownie Samukai at a news conference in Monrovia on Thursday justified the action of the military terming it as a proper step.
"Bomi under the public health law has been identified by the ministry of health, as an infected location that we need to contain and we took steps to do that and people are inconvenienced; I can't understand that inconvenience," said Samukai. "They say you need 21 days to make sure you are not spreading that disease anywhere. If you don't believe me, I'll take you there and let you go in front and come back. It is serious and we are deadly serious as well."
Rights to be restricted
Emphasizing the degree to which the deadly Ebola virus has claimed the lives of hundreds of Liberians, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declaring the state of emergency on Wednesday, stated the Liberia's healthcare system is under immense strain and the Ebola epidemic is having a chilling effect on overall health care delivery. President Sirleaf said under the state of emergency, the government will institute extraordinary measures, including if need be the suspension of certain rights and privileges as mandated by the constitution.
"Out of fear of being infected with the disease, healthcare practitioners are afraid to accept new patients, especially in community clinics all across the country," she indicated. Continued Sirleaf: "Consequently, many common diseases, which are especially prevalent during the rainy season, such as malaria, typhoid and common colds are going untreated and may lead to unnecessary and preventable deaths.
The virus currently has no cure and has a fertility rate of up to 90%. The aggregate number of cases, confirmed, probable and suspected in our country has now exceeded five hundred with about 271 cumulative deaths, with 32 deaths among health care workers. The death rate among citizens, especially among healthcare workers, is alarming."
Major health centers in the country have been seriously affected by the Ebola outbreak, but the government has given assurance of a partial function John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital on Thursday and the Redemption hospital to follow on Friday. "JFK Hospital's Emergency Department reopens - JFK Hospital is reopening today: emergency and OBGYN departments are now fully open. JFK, Liberia's largest referral hospital, will be completely online by the weekend. The Government remains determined to keep basic health services, operational despite the Ebola outbreak," stated a government report issued on Thursday.
"ELWA Hospital has now been fully decontaminated (yesterday); training has started and the hospital will reopen tomorrow. The government has increased its emergency call center capacity, with additional lines installed." The government confirmed that military checkpoints have been installed as part of 'Operation White Shield' and are already partly operational.