Liberia: Open Letter to - Minister of Health and the Government of Liberia


Subject: "To # 14 and Back" (Mae Gene Best's Article in Daily Observer, 1 June 2020)

I begin this letter foremost with "Kudos" (highest congratulations) to Mae Gene Best, wife of Kenneth Best, founder and former Managing Director of the Daily Observer Newspaper, for her Story on having tested positive for COVID-19; hospitalized at #14 Military COVID-19, and Back in the Monday, 1 June edition of the paper. Her Story was so extraordinary, in the insights it provided to the public at large on what it means to be at the #14 Military COVID-19 Treatment Centre, once one has been diagnosed as having Coronavirus.

Reading the Story in the papers took me two days. There was so much in it - much for us all the ordinary citizens, and more importantly, for the response of the nation's Health authorities to the COVID-19, with lessons and proposals for (a) enhancing the effectiveness of our response and (b) addressing the gaps in the conditions for treatment at the # 14 Military Centre.

There were simply so many major items in her Story that I shall make no attempt to summarize them here. I will therefore simply highlight the following: foremost was her appreciation of the Medical Doctors and Health Workers. She gave them high marks, notwithstanding the difficult work environment. It is not often that Liberians express such appreciation! Secondly, she then urged President Weah "to walk his song" -- in short, she underscored that Mr. President must set good examples by obeying the rules that he wants the rest of us Citizens and Residents to follow. She continued, "this is no do as I sing business; You yourself must walk the song." This is now even more critical since the international community has decided to use the song worldwide -Kudos again to GOL!

Thirdly, her Story identified a series of concrete actions that need to be put in place for greater effectiveness in carrying out the services and providing better health care to those at #14 Military. At this point, I simply want to urge Madam Minister of Health, that should details in the article have not been brought to your attention, the appropriate officials of your Ministry must look into them for attention urgently. If, on the contrary you and your staff are acquainted with the article, I implore you to take action on the lessons drawn from the Story such that MOH/GOL addresses the issues raised, in the interest of improving conditions for patients and staff at the # 14 Military. Thus, it would be good to let the public know about this as well as inform the citizenry on what is Liberia's national strategy for dealing with the Pandemic. Indeed, it is possible that, as my Ugandan sister in-law, Elizabeth Lwanga intimated to me, on hearing Mae Gene's Story, "Could it be that God placed her in #14 Military so that she would come out; and tell her story for the benefit of Liberia's response to COVID-19? Recall in this connection, the story of Queen Esther in the Bible when Mordecai, her uncle, went to her to tell her about the plot of Haman to get the King to put out an edict to kill her people, and that she had to act. When the Queen hesitated, he said, who knows that it may be for this very purpose that God put you here as Queen - for a moment such as this!

I want to also propose that the Daily Observer consider republication of the Story -but in two parts since 3 pages of six columns each proved very difficult to read and digest. I have followed various articles/editorials on the COVID-19 published in the Observer and must commend it for such quality reporting. Indeed, it is such stories of Mae Gene Best and others, as well as that of constructive advice offered to GOL that can only enhance its effectiveness in several cases. Here we recall the article in the New Dawn of 23 April when former Senator Ballout and former Liberian Ambassador to Qatar, was discharged from #14 Military Hospital. He pointed out the lack of basic equipment at #14 Military Hospital and sounded the alarm, in his interview over Joy FM, stressing the need to train more personnel for the health sector, warning that as cases increased, the demands for such workers in the health sectors will soar automatically.

Who, may I ask, can deny that we have arrived at that very point with 600 + cases of COVID-19? Of course with intensive testing we can expect more. To Senator and former Ambassador Ballout, I say "thank you plenty", yah!

But I must also express appreciation to former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Lewis Brown; to former Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Ngafuan and former National Security Agency Director Foumba Sirleaf, all of whom have featured significant articles in various News Media-the Inquirer; New Dawn and other media outlets -providing either the benefit of their experience with the Ebola Virus Disease for the current fight against COVID-19 as well as giving very useful advice to the authorities on the tackling of the current virus. Indeed, one has also read the constructive contribution from Mr. Alexander Cummings of the Opposition CPP, in line with the recognition that this COVID-19 is all of our problem and demands all hands on board, as was the case during the nation's response to Ebola-we urge the Administration to "walk the talk" on this one as well as response to editorials in the News (18 June) and FPA (18 June) amongst others.

In that regard, I have seen several presentations providing expert and concrete advice by Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, our Liberian Scientist of international repute, in various media worldwide as well as in Liberia - I hope that GOL is tapping his expertise, benefiting from his knowledge. I have seen him on several Zoom discussions, etc. - on the COVID-19, for which he has been highly applauded. Why is he not here with us? We understand that he has indicated his availability, even voluntarily. Importantly, Dr. Nyan has volunteered to develop Liberia's COVID-19 testing kits to address this critical need. With shortages of COVID-19 testing kits in the region, the governments of Senegal and Ghana have supported their scientists in developing testing kits. While Liberia has yet to heed Dr. Nyan's patriotic offer, Rwanda, has since declared interest and working with him to eventually produce testing kits for COVID-19 and other infections. We sincerely hope that this is not a case where a prophet may not be welcomed in his own home! And we wonder why Liberia is behind other African Brothers and Sisters? Indeed, we cannot afford any such! It may be recalled that Dr. Nyan had served at one point as our 169th National Orator on 26 July 2016 -- at which time he made available to Liberia and Africa at large his invention of the Rapid Multiplex Pathogen Diagnostic Test which can detect and simultaneously differentiate about 3-7 infectious pathogens within 10 to 40 minutes using just one test. That test has been awarded, in recent times, a US Patent by the United States Patent and Trademark office.

As I close, I want to refer to the pending prospect of the opening of our Borders and airports. In that regard, it is imperative that such re-opening takes into account the ECOWAS Guidelines titled "Harmonization and Facilitation of Cross Border Trade and Transport in the ECOWAS Region on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Related Post-Recovery Actions. This is aimed at limiting the spikes of Coronavirus resulting from likely carriers of the virus at the airports as well as from cross border influx of new cases from neighboring countries." As the saying goes "prevention is better than cure."

Having read this, I beg your, please do something for our people ooh!

Olubanke King-Akerele

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

Former Minster of Commerce & Industry

Retired Senior Official of 25 years with United Nations system (UNDP/UNIDO/UNESCO & UNIFEM (today's UNWomen),

Chair of Board, Angie Brooks International Centre for Women's Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security

And A Liberian Patriot

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