Liberians Laud Government’s COVID-19 Response, But Claim Unfair Distribution of Relief Assistance, New Afrobarometer Study Shows
Monrovia – A new Afrobarometer survey has uncovered that majority Liberians approved the government’s performance in managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including necessary lockdowns.
But most believe that COVID-19 relief was not distributed fairly. Better-off citizens and urban residents were about twice as likely as the poor and rural residents to benefit from this assistance, and older citizens appear to have been largely overlooked.
In the report, launched on Wednesday in Monrovia, quarter of citizens say their households lost income because of the pandemic, while most citizens support the lockdown as necessary, most also found it difficult to comply with the restrictions.
The study also shows a less-than-encouraging attitude toward vaccines: few Liberians trust their government to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and only one-third say they are likely to try to get vaccinated. Most say prayer is more effective than a vaccine in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan survey research network that measures citizen attitudes on democracy and governance, the economy, civil society and related issues in African countries.
At the launch of the report on Wednesday in Monrovia, Afrobarometer Project Manager for Anglophone West Africa Daniel Armah-Attah said the Afrobarometer team in Liberia, led by the Center for Democratic Governance (CDG), interviewed a sample size of 1,200 adult Liberians from across the country between October and December 2020.
According to him, a sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level, adding that previous standard surveys were conducted in Liberia in 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2018.
Presenting the findings, the Director of CDG, Oscar Bloh, cautioned that if mass vaccination is to succeed, the Government, civil society and the media will have to sensitize the public to increase confidence in vaccines and enhance uptake when they become available.
In the report, three in 100 citizens say they or a member of their household became ill with COVID-19, and a quarter (25%) say they lost income because of the pandemic. About eight in 10 Liberians (81%) say they found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to comply with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
But a similar majority (83%) “agree” or “strongly agree” that the lockdown was necessary, in spite of the toll it took on the economy and people’s livelihoods.
On the closure of school to limit the spread of coronavirus, seven in 10 (70%) say they “somewhat support” or “strongly support” the measure taken by the Government. But most think the period during which schools were closed was “somewhat too long” (23%) or “much too long” (59%), the report said.
Also, fewer than one in 10 Liberians (9%) say they or their households received government assistance during the pandemic, while economically well-off citizens (those experiencing no lived poverty) (16%) are twice as likely as relatively poorer citizens (those experiencing low, moderate, or high lived poverty) (7%-9%) to report receiving assistance. Also urban residents were twice as likely as rural dwellers to receive relief (12% vs. 6%), and only 1% of those aged over 55 say they received assistance.
Further down in the report, about eight in 10 (78%) citizens say the benefits of government programs to support people during the COVID-19 pandemic were not distributed fairly. Majorities say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well” in managing the response to the pandemic (64%) and keeping the public informed (80%).
However, only three in 10 (30%) say they trust government’s statistics on COVID-19. And eight in 10 (81%) think that “some” or “a lot” of the resources that were available for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic were lost or stolen due to corruption among government officials.
On vaccination, only two in 10 Liberians (20%) say they trust the government “somewhat” or “a lot” to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine is safe before it is used in the country.
Only one-third (34%) say they are likely to try to get vaccinated if a vaccine becomes available; while almost nine in 10 citizens (86%) say prayer is more effective than a vaccine would be in preventing COVID-19 infection, including 61% who think prayer is “much more effective.”
Two-thirds (66%) of Liberians say the government needs to invest more in preparing to respond to health emergencies like COVID-19, even if it means fewer resources are available for other health services.
The launch of the report, held at a local hotel in Monrovia, was graced by experts and officials from government, academia and foreign embassies.
A panel discussion featuring two top Public Health experts, Mr. Luke Bawo, Coordinator of Health, Information System, Research and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) at the Ministry of Health, and Ms. Joyce Kilipo was held.
The experts, in separate remarks, welcome the report and noted that it could be a useful tool making informed decision in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.