Public Health Issues Must Not Be Politicized: Preventing Coronavirus Is Critical Like Averting another Ebola

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WHEN EBOLA STRUCK LIBERIA BACK IN 2015, politics helped instigate the spread of misinformation that caused thousands of our compatriots to loss their lives. Several politicians – governing party or oppositions – were accused of crafting conspiracy theories about the outbreak. Their narratives skewed the main issues, distracting the public from the core health issues thereby causing mass hysteria and mistrust in the health system.

ALREADY, LIBERIA HAD A POROUS HEALTH SECTOR and a non-existent national risk communication strategy. Journalists too were novices. They help fueled contradictions and misinformation that created panic amongst Liberians, who relied on the news media to understand the characteristics of the virus. Fast forward, the health system crumbled just as every sector shattered. Families love ones and health workers perished. Those years were recorded in our history books with pain and anguish.

NEVERTHELESS, WE LATER LEARNED HOW TO ROLL-BACK THE VIRUS. It was late, but we learned a hard lesson. Experts have argued that that experience could be used as a foundation to curb any future public health crisis. The National Public Health Institute and the Ministry of Health, which have received support from the Liberian government and international partners, say they are prepared to tackle any epidemic. However, we think this is possible but will require huge technical and financial support.

WE ALSO THINK THAT THE HARD LESSONS we’ve learned from the dreadful Ebola crisis have epitomized the significance of a popular cliché: experience is the best teacher. Matters of fact, several other countries, including DR Congo, have learned from the Liberian experience in dealing with their own Ebola outbreak in recent years.

NOW THAT THE WORLD HAS ANOTHER CONTAGIOUS AND KILLER virus to deal with, Liberia cannot afford to slack. We must do everything possible to prevent a case of the Coronavirus from coming to this country. Despite enjoying a more confident public health sector, we are cognizant that we don’t have the resources to deal with the challenge that the Coronavirus presents.

The People’s Republic of China, the world’s second-largest economy and most populous nation in the world, is feeling the threat of the outbreak. Almost 18,000 people are now infected and at least 427 people have died so far – one dead in The Philippines and the rest in China. China economy is also feeling the impact of the outbreak.

WE ARE INDEED IN SOLIDARITY WITH CHINA – a country which is a very good diplomatic and development partner of ours. In fact, we still remember how China to help Liberia tackled the Ebola virus back in 2015 by providing technical and human resource support. Their support has been undauntedly recorded in our history books.

WHAT IS VERY PRESSING IS STRESSING THE IMPORTANCE of dealing with this killer virus void of quack and waste-of-time politics. We have witnessed everything being politicized her in Liberia; everything being discussed awkwardly in the arena of the Legislature – where laws are made. Politics is nuclear of every democratic government, which we cannot disagree, but leadership is vital when a nation must solve or prevent a threat that knows no friend or foe. We are confident this is the time for such leadership!

WE KNOW THAT THIS VIRUS WILL CAUSE DEATHS if we allow it to slip through our health system. All hands are needed on deck and every support is definitely required. The wayward politics of our system only has a trait of crippling the shrewdness – this turpitude we must resist, especially in time like these.

RECENTLY, HEALTH AUTHORITY REQUESTED that the government makes available US$3 Million dollar to embark on a rigorous and efficient system gear toward ensuring the country track people coming into the country from China and possibly curb any possible outbreak. We agree that this measure is the most effective means of preventing any possible importation of the virus into the country.

WHAT IS VERY PRESSING IS STRESSING THE IMPORTANCE of dealing with this killer virus void of quack and waste-of-time politics. We have witnessed everything being politicized her in Liberia; everything being discussed awkwardly in the arena of the Legislature – where laws are made. Politics is nuclear of every democratic government, which we cannot disagree, but leadership is vital when a nation must solve or prevent a threat that knows no friend or foe. We are confident this is the time for such leadership!

APPEARING BEFORE THE PLENARY of the House of Representatives recently, the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis N. Kateh and the acting Director-General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Mosoka P. Fallah complained that they are working with limited resources to strengthen surveillance and create awareness about the coronavirus.

DR. KETEH SAID THAT “the initial investment in this fight is US$3 million to help us put in place measures and mechanisms to protect the population should in case anything was to hit us. For now, we are using the limited resources to maximize result.”

CONSIDERING THE REQUESTS BY THE TWO TOP PUBLIC HEALTH experts evinced by our horrible past in handling outbreaks, we must act now by taking the preventive measure very seriously. No body prays for health outbreaks, but we live in a global village and must be prepared for any eventuality. We think the manner in which the virus has entered other countries is a caveat to us and being more robust is very cardinal to averting this health calamity.

INCREASING SURVEILLANCE AND STEPPING-UP PUBLIC AWARENESS is vital to averting any public health crisis. So, we think dealing with this global outbreak is a priority that must not be politicized.

WE ARE AWARE AND WANT TO EMPHASIZE to our readers, politicians and other public policy makers that in order to effectively solve public health crisis, the country must take critical decisions avoid of politics. Science or public health issues have national implications; anything less than being serious will lead to an absurd outcome.  

IT WILL BE A DISASTER TO HAVE ANOTHER PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS like Ebola, and with the raging threat a country like China already faces, we need not debate the ramifications of allowing a single case slip into Liberia. 

THIS CORONAVIRUS IS DEADLY! This is an epidemic only a fool of a nation will underestimate. And, as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, we, as a country, must exert all efforts and resources to tighten all of our surveillance screws, patch all of our leakages, and be on our alerts to stop the virus from entering our borders.

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