Liberia: Jefferson Koijee Explains Role of 6,000′ Active Case Finders’, City Police in COVID-19 Fight
MONROVIA – The head of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee, has clarified that the 6,000 “active case finders” recruited by the MCC would not be conducting contact tracing, rather, they will gather vital information from the communities which would guide the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health to carryout contact tracing.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
In an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica, Mayor Koijee said the active case finders were recruited from various communities in all of the Districts of Montserrado County to furnish the health authorities with details of the unfolding in their communities. He stated that they are not health workers.
His clarification comes in the wake of allegations and controversies that these “active case finders” without any medical knowledge are likely to spread the coronavirus as they visit household-to-household. There have also been concerns over why the 2,000 contact tracers that were trained by health authorities during the Ebola epidemic have not been called to assist in the contact tracing of suspected COVID-19 cases.
But the Mayor of the City of Monrovia said, his recruits would merely be collecting data from residents of the city and asking them some vital questions that would help the health authorities carryout contact tracing.
“The first we did was that we were engaged in a broad-based consultation where we shifted the responsibility on the community dwellers themselves. You meet with the community dwellers, you sensitize them. When we started we had 1,300 community mobilizers and community communicators…Their function was – they go in the community, sensitive the people about getting involved with preventive measures and preserve their lives,” he explained.
Koijee explained that the community mobilizers had been working within the various communities for the past two weeks but as cases begun to suddenly escalate, they saw the need to increase their numerical strength for more effectiveness.
“We had an extensive consultation. Even people who worked during Ebola, people who were around, those professionals… we recruited from a cross section of our county, Montserrado as a whole. More besides that, they were even trained by health practitioners, they were trained for a week, they gave them all the necessary tools and people say they are contact tracers – no – they are not tracing no contacts,” he said.
According to him, the majority of the 6,000 recruits were those who worked with the MCC to demarcate the geographical space of Montserrado County. He said they detailed structures, families, and homes during the demarcation process, therefore, it makes it easier for them to gather more information that health workers would need to trace suspected COVID-19 cases.
“The first we did was that we were engaged in a broad-based consultation where we shifted the responsibility on the community dwellers themselves. You meet with the community dwellers, you sensitize them. When we started we had 1,300 community mobilizers and community communicators…Their function was – they go in the community, sensitive the people about getting involved with preventive measures and preserve their lives.”– Jefferson T. Koijee, Mayor of Monrovia
Not a Matter of Politics
Mayor Koijee condemned comments on social media and members of the public that these “active case finders” would be carriers of COVID-19 and are likely to spread it to households.
According to him, such comments are unacceptable and fellow Liberians who are trying to aid in breaking the chain of transmission should not be seen as such.
“To see people trying to discredit their work, to see people trying to politicize their work to the extent that people see living people and call them carrier of virus… whether they are from Party A or they are from Party B, does it mean that they are not Liberians or human beings that deserve some level of dignity?”
He added: “If we sit here supinely those same people will say what kind of mayor is he, a mayor that is grossly insensitive to the plights of his people. When we get involved again they try to circumvent our nationalistic effort in ensuring and securing the people we all claim that we care for,” he said.
He said he believes his efforts are being criticized by some members of the opposition bloc because should it be successful, it hinders their chances of gaining the favor of Liberians.
Koijee alleged that the former head of NPHIL, Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah and Liberian scientist, Dr. Christopher Nyan of trying to disrupt constructive efforts in the fight against coronavirus in Liberia.
Dr. Nyan has been a critic of mechanisms being used by the Liberian health authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Liberia.
“The doctor, Christopher Nyan needs to come clear, you can’t pretend here,” he said.
He said Dr. Nyan should have contacted the office of the Mayor before coming up with these criticisms about the active case finders.
“If he had those qualms, if he is so a genuine person and he is not politically driven and not politically motivated the first thing he would have done was to try to reach out to us and see whether he can be able to pitch out his medical professional advice,” Koijee said.
Koijee said Dr. Nyan allowed political stunt to becloud his sense of judgment.
Koijee said the 6,000 active case finders was advised by health practitioners because of the strange nature of the coronavirus.
Mayor Koijee also accused Mr. Nyenswah of being sponsored by PREVAIL to discredit the work of the health authorities in the fight against the coronavirus.
“For him to be paid by PREVAIL, the NGO PREVAIL in America, and PREVAIL is a partner of the government and we’ll call on the Health Ministry to check in with PREVAIL that he cannot be in America, be taking pay and at the same time he’ll be coming after this government,” Koijee alleged.
According to him, Mr. Nyenswah has been dishonest in his criticisms because during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, he Nyenswah, supported and endorsed a similar initiative organized by the Youth League of the Congress for Democratic Change where 1,000 people were mobilized and a sensitization map for community engagements.
Role of City Police
Koijee could not categorically state whether the Monrovia City Police is a member of the joint security team enforcing the adherence to the state of emergency. He, however, stated that the City Police has a statutory mandate to enforce city ordinances which they have been going about to ensure it is enforced.
“We have one government and our government has one common interest with one common purpose and the city police continues to do what their statutory responsibilities require them to do,” he said.