As representatives of wider Liberian communities and societies, a cluster of Civil Society Organizations hereby acknowledge and recognize the Government of Liberia for prioritizing and taking various measures in taking lead to provide national response in the fight against COVID-19. We appreciate the difficulty of the decisions that you are taking to preserve the lives and well-being of Liberian citizens.
We look forward to seeing the multi-sectoral national COVID-19 response plan and hope that you will partner in good faith with Civil Society, as we have an integral role to play and unified, collective action will be key to kicking COVID-19 out of Liberia!
At the same time, we remain apprehensive and extremely concerned over several issues in the Government-led national response.
In these extremely critical, and life-threatening moments, a comprehensive national response is crucial in defeating COVID-19. As Civil Society Organizations, we hereby urge the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of Government, donors and development partners pay immediate attention, respond and act on the following issues:
We urge the Government to develop and deliver a unified national response based on expertise and not driven by partisan politics. This does not mean that actions and decisions should go unchallenged. A healthy opposition is key to a healthy democracy. This means that the response should be driven be experts and appointments be made based on merit and not party or personal loyalty.
We call on the mandated institutions to provide clear, complete, correct and consistent information on COVID-19 national response including testing and contact tracing. The public needs you to be transparent and truthful about life saving and other assistance such as food relief, non-food items etc.
We call aloud on government to protect human rights and enhance civic space in this crisis and thereafter. Government must immediately adopt, in cooperation with civil society, a comprehensive policy that ensures people's human rights and freedoms, including rights related to protection and access to information.
While some initial plans are underway to provide a social safety net for Liberians, Government must recognize and prioritize the needs of people in vulnerable situations including women, children, elderly, people with disabilities, people with compromised health, people living in rural communities, homeless people, survivors of violence and people living in poverty as well as people living in underserved communities.
Importantly, we urged government to adopt an integrated gender-based approach into the response plan to address special needs of women, girls and violence occurring during this outbreak and have a robust response mechanism in place.
Critically, we call on government, donors and development partners to be transparent and accountable in utilization of locally mobilized resources and donor funds. Civil Society is attuned to the risk of corruption and Liberians are already concerned about corruption and fraudulent use of these funds, as we witnessed same during the Ebola outbreak.
Lastly, we would like to urge the government of Liberia especially through the Ministries of Justice, Gender Children and Social Protection, Health and Security apparatus to provide accessible space and increase response to the spate of violence against women and girls during and after the State of Emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has a disproportionate harmful impact on women's and girls' ability to enjoy their human rights and the severity of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence, against women and children will likely surge as tensions rise during this crisis. Women are on the front lines of the health sector where they form 70% of the workforce and, at home, the disproportionate burden of care work they shoulder will increase.
In conclusion, as the voice of the wider Liberian society, we also wish to draw attention of national response stakeholders to stigma associated with the virus and do hereby appreciate steps taken by the Ministry of Health and MICAT not to disclose personal identity of persons tested positive. We thereby encourage strict adherence to none disclosure of identities to avoid stigmatization and minimize trauma. We call on MICAT to unreservedly work with the media to provide news coverage on COVID-19 in a way that encourages the public to take effective action to help combat the disease and to avoid fuelling fear and stigma. An environment needs to be created in which the disease and its impact can be discussed and addressed openly, honestly and effectively.
We appreciate the difficulty of the decisions that you are taking to preserve the lives and well-being of Liberian citizens. We look forward to seeing a multi-sectoral intersectional gendered national COVID-19 response plan and hope that you will partner in good faith with Civil Society, as we have an integral role to play and unified, collective action will be key to kicking COVID-19 out of Liberia!
This CSOs' Position Paper is signed by all Civil Society Organizations listed below:
Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI)
Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH)
Sisters Aid Liberia Incorporated (SALI)
Paramount Young Women Initiative (PYWI)
Helping Our People Excel (HOPE)
Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI)
South Eastern Women Development Association (SEWoDA)
United Youth for Peace, Education, Transparency and Development in Liberia
Livelihood Development Centre (LDC)
Restoring Our Children Hope (ROCH)
WestPoint Women for Health &Development Organization (WWHDO)
National Union of Organizations on Disabilities (NUOD)
Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP)
Her Voice Liberia
Rural Education Sponsorship Enhancing Communities Together (RESPECT)
National Institute for Public Opinion and Kids Educational Engagement Project (NIPPO)
Kids Education Empowerment Program