Liberia: Rivercess Children Plagued by Skin Diseases Locally Called ‘Be Serious’


Charlie Town, River Cess County – The emergence of a rare skin disease known in Liberia as “Be Serious” has sparked fear amongst residents of Charlie Town in Rivercess County.

Report by Willie N. Tokpah, [email protected]

Residents, mainly parents, say children who are under 15 years of are seriously infected.

They are afraid that the disease is contiguous and is fast spreading rashes on the bodies of school-going-kids. 

They are afraid that the situation will become an emergency, due to lack of adequate medication at the only clinic in the area.

Joe Gbessigie, a resident of the town, says he’s worried that instead of providing medicines, the clinic only gives patients prescriptions to buy drugs from private pharmacies.

Gbessigie wants the Ministry of Health to support Charlie Town Public clinic with more drugs. 

And Nathaniel Zoklah, the Township Commissioner, says some kids who are affected by the disease are in school, and he’s concerned that the sitaution poses risk to other pupils.

“At this time of the school year, keeping children who are affected with the disease may affect their education, so the kids are in schools with their friends but it is risky also,” Commissioner Zoklah said.

“They are interacting, eating together and this disease has the ability to spread through contact, so more children risk being affected.”

The residents have not been able to state the actual cause of the disease, but some are assuming that it is waterborne.

Some of the residents in Charlie Town and its surroundings said the hand pumps that are a major source of drinking water are all damaged, forcing residents to fetch water from creeks.

Patience Zoryou, a mother of one of the affected children, said the creek that is used to fetch drinking water is also used for washing.

“We cannot do anything about it, because that’s the only place we can get water to drink, cook and wash. The pumps NGOs put here for us are not good again,” Madam Zoryou stated.

When questioned about how the disease is contracted and its reactions to affected children, another parent, Matthew Karyouway said, “It starts coming like rash and as soon as the children scratch it, then the rash will spread all over the skin and creates headache for them. At the same time, their skins can be itching and hot.”

Benjamin Giko, Principal of Charlie Town School, says pupils are not seriously affected by the disease, but added that this is because the school has ordered infected students to stay home.

“This measure we put in place is intended to avoid the widespread of this skin disease among the children in school because it is contiguous,” Giko said.

When contacted, the Officer in Charge (OIC) at the Charlie Town Clinic, Mamie Tarnue confirmed the severity of the disease, but she attributed the situation to poor water and sanitation.

Nevertheless, Madam Tarnue said health practitioners and NGOs have embarked on health related awareness for residents of the town.

“It’s true that some children have rashes on their skins, but most of the cases we are dealing with are not very high. Children who are affected are undergoing treatment.”

Madam Tarnue clarified that the clinic is providing medicines for patients, contrary to claims of lack of drugs by residents.

“Unless we have not received medicines, that’s the only way we will not be able to give drugs out to them. But this clinic is doing its best,” she said.

Concern about the ‘be serious’ disease spreading, in 2018 the Ministry of Health confirmed that it was a Scabies outbreak. But the Ministry, at the time, refused to consider it a national emergency.

The MoH said Grand Bassa, Nimba, Bong, Margibi, and Rivercess Counties, as well as rural and urban Montserrado Counties, were all reporting scores of cases.  

Scabies, which is very contagious, has “high possibilities of spreading,” and several top health experts investigating and mapping the virus in the country cautioned that the situation would have worsened if a rigorous approach was ignored.