Liberia: 'Liberia Risks Disease Outbreaks Amid Sanitation Problem'

Prominent biomedical scientist and social activist, Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan, has said that, "a major outbreak of Cholera and Hepatitis A infection may be looming over Liberia, if the government does not urgently address the proper disposal of mountains of garbage and solid wastes that has accumulated and sits in and around the Capital, Monrovia and its environs."

"I remember that several clean-up campaigns were announced after the new government was inaugurated in January 2018, but these campaigns have done nothing substantial to address the increasing volume of solid wastes that has piled up around Monrovia," said the award-winning infectious diseases doctor, and "this is the danger of politicizing health and environmental issues."

He made the statements recently during a conference with journalists to address the growing concerns of government's inability to clean up the garbage in Monrovia, Liberia's Capitol. Also in nearby Paynesville City, a suburb of Monrovia, residents and marketeers have been complaining about the stock pile of garbage. In most market places, including Duala another suburban area, marketeers sell their produce, surrounded by piles of garbage, solid waste and flies.

"The garbage is a breeding ground for flies and other disease-carrying insects, which we call vectors. This puts our food supply at a serious health risk in these open markets and in homes that are surrounded by garbage. With the rainy season setting in, the population may be even more vulnerable to food and water-borne infections such Cholera and Hepatitis-A that could translate into outbreaks if the situation is not addressed by the authorities," Dr. Nyan stated.

Responding to questions on news reports of some city authorities telling residents to bury or burn garbage, Dr. Nyan said, "the population is being ill-advised as burning the garbage is not a wise solution, since burning of garbage by residents could also lead to air pollution and create respiratory illnesses including lung cancer in the long run."

He continued, "there are proper garbage and waste disposal mechanisms that meet environmentally friendly standards that can be applied, but the apparent lack of a well-structured waste-disposal plan, knowledge and expertise on the part of the municipal authorities poses an additional problem of incompetence and neglect."

Asked whether he had any recommendations to help solve this problem, the renowned infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Nyan, offered that, "I can attempt to make a bundle of suggestions as usual, but hope it will be accepted with an open mind by the authorities. In that regard, I will propose that the National Public Health Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency need to urgently draw up a workable plan along with the Monrovia City Council, so as to properly dispose of the solid wastes with environmentally safer procedures such as establishing sanitary landfills, incineration, salvaging, and composting, just to name a few; the National Public Health Institute needs to conduct periodic preparedness drills to prepare public health workers in anticipation of an outbreak," Dr. Nyan insisted.

The award-winning scientist also added that, "I would advise the general population desist from burning garbage; to sufficiently boil drinking water or to drink bottled water if they can afford it; to cook food with the proper temperature so as to kill microorganisms (those tiny, tiny little things that can cause diseases); to frequently wash their hands or using hand sanitizers is also encouraged."

He mentioned that, "through a pan-African collaborative effort, I could also help to connect the Monrovia City Council with the City Mayor and Council of Kigali (Rwanda), one of the cleanest cities in the world, so as to gather expert knowledge and learn how the City of Kigali keeps its environment clean."

Dr. Nyan, a medical doctor and inventor, has won global recognition for inventing the Rapid Multiplex Pathogen Diagnostic Test called, the Nyan-Test. It detects multiple infections within an hour and identifies the detected infections simultaneously. He is the 2017 laureate of the African Innovation Prize Award Special Prize for Social Impact and recently received a US Patent for his invention from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

As Director of the Diaspora Ebola Task-force during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia, West Africa, Dr. Nyan testified before the United States Congress. His congressional testimony and recommendations contributed to establishing the Center for Disease Control in Africa, US involvement in fighting the Ebola outbreak, and establishing regional public health institutes in Liberia and the sub-regions.

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