-Wants COVID-19 Response Properly Coordinated
The leading agency for disaster management and humanitarian response in the country has said that the national response against the invading coronavirus disease must be properly coordinated in order for the country and its people emerge victorious at the end of fight.
The Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) was the major frontliner in the fight against the deadly Ebola disease that hit the country in 2014-16. The LNRCS was responsible for the disposal of the highly contagious Ebola dead bodies--a responsibility that was diligently executed leading to Liberia being the first of the three countries to be pronounced free of the virus.
It is out of this experience that the Red Cross is calling on the government and its partners to diligently coordinate the fight against COVID-19 in order to ensure that the country stand out among the many that have been hit.
The LNRCS president, Jerome Clarke, said that the whole world is struggling to cope with the outbreak, and it is not yet known the full extent of the economic and social dimensions of the crisis that will be faced, urging that stronger and appropriate measures must be taken to save the lives of Liberians and foreign residents in the country.
"So far, Africa has been the continent least affected by the pandemic, but if measures to contain the virus are not taken immediately, it could be devastating," he warns.
Mr. Clarke spoke of the extremely challenges that the Red Cross currently faces, paramount among these being funds and logistics--a situation that is gravely hampering efforts since the latest disease outbreak.
He said request for food, non-food items and other IPC materials currently on LNRCS' desks are ten times more than it can afford at the moment because of the depletion of its stocks.
The LNRCS president spoke at the launch of his institution's coronavirus (COVID-19) response activities on Monday, April 6 in Monrovia. Priorities will be given to Montserrado and Margibi Counties for now, the Red Cross said.
"The LNRCS is over stretched because its donors including countries that always provide support are also overwhelmed with this global pandemic, thereby limiting the institution's support for this response," he said.
He adds that the institution needs to mobilize sufficient resources locally to sustain and make the response successful along with the government and other partners, adding: "We can't further accept the loss of many lives as it was in the case of Ebola."
The spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Clarke said, has also made other existing humanitarian needs in the country more acute and further making the delivery of humanitarian aid even more critical and urgent.
He calls for increased support not only from the government and donors, but from everyone to ensure that LNRCS works on the grounds where lives will be saved and communities protected.
"Why our priorities are on community health and care, risk communication and community engagement for awareness raising and hygiene promotion, we strongly [believe] that there are other critical areas- including food and Psychosocial support for suspected and confirmed cases- need urgent attention.
He lauded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) for the donation of over US$35,000 to support risk communication activities in the two counties.
Mr. Clarke expresses concerns that disabled and people with special needs and other vulnerabilities are already struggling and could be at even greater risk if nothing is done to address their pressing needs as affected communities and population [are] to stay home.
He calls on the communities to avoid their usual hand shake, hugging, close contact, and keep in self-isolation while seeking quick medical intervention when they have fever as COVID-19 has no cure.
As a way of augmenting government's efforts so far in the fight, LNRCS Head of Programs/National Society Development, Mr. Christopher O. Johnson, said the society has donated 1,672 hand washing buckets and other assorted related materials.
He also listed masks, gloves and thermometers to several private and public institutions, Community - Based Organizations and individuals, among others.
The LNRCS is strengthening collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), and the larger response coordination mechanism, he said. He details that they have invoked the attention of partners including the IFRC, ICRC, and PNSs.
He explains that the LNRCS has been strongly involved from preparedness to response, collaborating with the government and complementing the Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute of Liberia in setting up Precautionary Observation Center.