opinionBy Mohammed Z. Fofana
Due to the overwhelming outbreak of this virus that is claiming the lives of our people, on Wednesday August 6, 2014, President Sirleaf declared a ninety (90) days State of Emergency with reference to Article 86 a and b of the Liberian Constitution. The state of emergency took the citizenry by surprise in the mix of poverty and economic degradation. Though the President declaration has a good intent which is part of the strategy to battle the epidemic and restore the land free of Ebola, we need not forget the socio-political and economic implication to the state of emergency.
The Socio-Political implication to the state of emergency:
When a state of emergency is declared, some rights of the citizens shall be suspended. In this light, the citizens shall remain observance of the state of emergency knowing that some of their rights have been temporarily suspended until the country returns to normalcy. But any citizens or institutions caught doing otherwise especially against Government under said restricted atmosphere, this might warrant such persons or institutions to face the full consequences of the law. But in the first place, every state of emergency must have some kind of exception according to crisis management or crisis prevention experts. But Madam Sirleaf was insensitive to the plights of some privileged group of Liberians in her declaration and mandate. The closure of Medical Center without considering the medications of people with disabilities, pregnant women and children is against international and humanitarian laws. This act is also in extreme conflict with the United Nation Convention on the rights of children, women and people with disabilities.
Political commentators are also speculating that Madam Sirleaf being the head of the Taskforce was unequivocally unwise decision. Instead, there should have been crisis management or crisis prevention experts whether local or foreign to head the Taskforce in the fight against Ebola while, Madam Sirleaf sits as the "watch- dog" to this process. As the momentum to fight the epidemic is on the rise, Madam Sirleaf has again buttressed the state of emergency with curfew thereby restricting the movement of citizens at night from 8:00am -9:00pm, businesses and entertainment Centers from 8:00am -6:00pm. Having experience our chaotic past, there must be something beyond the scope of Ebola that citizens may not know now which is influencing the Government to take those decisions by taking security measures. Though it is not our wish for anything contrary other than peace and stability, but we need to start thinking beyond the scope of Ebola and get prepare for the unforeseen circumstances.
The Economic implication to the state of emergency:
The declaration of a state of emergency by the President and with the concurrence of the upper and lower Houses has a serious economic implication on the lives of the ordinary people. Economically, one of the ways to economic viability and efficiency is by regional trade or in other words, cross border trade. Trading goods and services and having access to farming land and market places in the exchange of goods and services are instruments of food security, economic growth and poverty reduction. 85% of our food intake is by importation from USA, China and neighbouring countries within the Sub African region. As a result of the state of emergency, our borders are closed thereby impeding the aspect of regional or cross border trade.
The lack of importation of goods and services is directly proportional to an increase in the price of consumer's goods and services and especially eatable and petroleum commodities. Merchants have already started taking advantage of the current state of the Country and its economy by double pricing communities on the market. The entire country is now on pause while businesses are closing and companies are cutting down staff day-by-day. 65% of the working population including both public and private sectors is home seated in observance of the state of emergency, as the economy of the country remains abstract and in the state of unpredictability.
To curtail the Ebola epidemic, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have closed borders with Liberia. But new development has reviled that Ivory Coast has reconsidered border closure with Liberia speaking of Mino-River Union solidarity.
The Nigerian President has described Patrick Sawyer as "MAD MAN" and the cradle for the spread of Ebola in Nigeria which has resulted in the suspension of flights with Liberia indefinitely and while Kenya has also followed same resulting from the epidemic. Delta Airline is equally shutting down flight from Liberia very soon on grounds that the economy of the country is causing the system more in spending than benefit. But on the overall, the decision for Delta to shut down flight from Liberia is mostly attributable to the Ebola epidemic but, in disguise.
While members of the three (3) Branches of Government are parading in 100-150 thousand US Dollars cars at the expense of tax payer money, there is a need in this critical time for Government to cut-down cost on luxury spending that has no impact on the lives of our people and purchase more Ambulances to pick-up Ebola affected patients to health Center and dead bodies.
And that at least five 5 Ambulances must be assigned to each County where the epidemic is on the rise. Ex: Lofa and Montserrado Counties.
Open Health Centers for pregnant women, children and people with disabilities
Two 2 quarantine Centers only in a Country of over 3.5 million populations are inadequate. The government needs to construct more quarantine Centers within the fifteen political Subdivisions with at least Five (5) Centers in each County where the epidemic is on the increase.
Health workers should be well equip with protective materials as well as having good incentives and other benefits like medical and life insurance, for they are the front- liners in the fight against this killer virus.
Let Medical practitioners stop describing people generally as Ebola survival when some of the cases are Non-Ebola related.
Let the Taskforce be headed by Crisis management or Crisis prevention experts while President Sirleaf sits in the seat of a "Watch Gog" as she carries on her statutory responsibility.
Weekly update must be given from the taskforce on Ebola status within the Country including challenges and prospects.
We citizens must also do due-diligence to ourselves by being committed to observing preventive measures as we all fight together in making our country Ebola free