Liberia: An Open Letter to the 54th National Legislators

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Dear Honorable Legislators:

It is about thirty-three 35 days now, since Liberia recorded her first case of the global pandemic of the 21th century, COVID-19; a SAR virus like disease firstly reported late November 2019 in Wuhan, Hebei Province, China. Today, COVID-19 is almost in every country around the global; not only has it held the world’s economic steadily toward a MELTDOWN but also the disease has killed a record number of over one hundred thousand people and more than a million infections. Terrifying enough is, it continues to challenge and overwhelm premium health systems of first world countries who are still struggling for a cure yet to be-in-sight.

Sadly, Liberia is amongst least developed countries in Africa that have challenged health systems. The country health system is critically confronted: from the intermissions of pipe born water and electricity to the lack of effective modern diagnostic tools, inadequate pharmaceuticals, understaff trained healthcare workers and deficient specialists; to mention but a few. A case of COVID-19 is an outbreak, that has seen countries closed borders, shut all windows of entries and grounding flights, declared health emergency and LOCKDOWN while other evacuate citizens where feasible. It has Squashed long standing political ties, diplomatic relations, trades and bilateral alliances all lost to the fight against a universal enemy, COVID-19. This viral disease does not know class nor status-poor and rich; ruled and ruler at alike.

Honorable members of the 54th legislature, let me kindly remind you that the fright against COVID-19 is no joke time or campaign period for political debates; all efforts, resources and best policies must be geared toward break in transmission of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized that Africa is yet to see the worse, despite recording more than  13, 000 cases and over 700 COVID-19 related deaths in 52 African countries; and warned that the continent prepares for the dark days ahead, hence, the fight against this virus in Africa is hitherto to take course. Evidence from countries that prepared lackadaisically have since struggle to flatten the much talked about “Curve”. 

“Liberia must take cue from her counterparts, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, etc.” It was indeed, in the right direction to have declared the State of Health Emergency in addition to the mandatory quarantine and other instituted surveillance protocols for person entering Liberia from infected countries by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, respectively. As it is commonly being observed, surging of COVID-19 cases begins two weeks, i.e. fourteen days after index case, a time considers to be the incubation period for the virus. This makes CONTACT TRACING the determinant fulcrum of success in the fight and control of COVID-19 infection.

Honorable members of the 54th Legislature, last Wednesday, April 8, 2020, the President of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellent, George M. Weah, in consideration of the trend and threat of COVID-19, declared a STATE OF EMERGENCY  as granted him according to Article 85, 86, 87 and 88 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia and requested the 54th legislature to convene a Joint Section for enactment. Though, many may see it untimely, burdensome and unbearable owing to the structural economic class of our population, but it is a NECESSARY and TIMELY intervention. Honorable, let’s remind ourselves of the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014, a history that I detest to recall. The State of Emergency is certainly the right thing to do at this time. I call on you to answer this crucial call by the president.

Notwithstanding, when you meet to deliberate and vote to endorse the president’s proclamation as granted by Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, I would like to make the following recommendations for your best consideration:

Propose a health emergency 25% monthly PAY CUT for the period of COVID-19 including Offices of the President and Vice President, the Senate Pro Tempore, Speaker of the House of Rep, members of the 54th legislature, Cabinet Ministers, Senior Staff of State owned or Autonomous agencies and Senior Civil Servants (earning $1,000.00 and above USD). Money collected thereof, be transferred to a designated account purposely to buy food, medication and other necessities for our vulnerable population who are at more risk of COVID-19 fatality; also for our slum and disadvantage communities, to help minimize the risk of infection while fending daily bread during this period of restricted movement as well as to enhance the effective implementation of the State of Emergency. Let members of the 54th legislature be part of the management and monitoring of this account (oversight) in addition to the Executive Committee on Coronavirus in Liberia (ECOL) to maintain a coordinated effort;   

Instead of almost what seems to be a complete LOCKDOWN, impose a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. CURFEW and an effective NON-INTERCOUNTY movement, especially from epicenters (Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Grand kru Counties) for the 21-day State of Emergency. This will ensure the flow of ESSENTIAL SERVICES (health service, banking, food supplies and markets, security, media, supermarket, Petro Station, etc.) and keep the local economic functional to avoid further fluidity of already fragile economic system in the country. At this juncture, I would also like to inform you that Muslims in Liberia will join others in the world to observe the Holy Month of Ramadhan, possibly from April 24, 2020 to May 22, 2020; and it may interest you to know that daily fast is observed from 5:30 am to 6:45 pm, consequently they will need a bit of relaxation to prepare for and have iftar daily;

Let the National Public Health Institute of Liberia and Ministry of Health Lead the fight against COVID-19 with supports from ECOL. The much publicized 6000 CONTACT TRACERS recruitment by the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) would be very laudable when these institutions (NPHIL and MoH) have trained and exhausted its available healthcare workers, which may include at this time, doctors, nurses and other related professionals in training as the understanding of routine healthcare giving and practice is core to the crucial identification of possible COVID-19 contacts and the safety of CONTACT TRACERS themselves  to avoid further spread of the virus and resource diversion. Honorable members of the 54th Legislature, having confirmed 50 cases and still counting, call for creation of more quarantine centers for mandatory confinement and isolation of closed contacts and conduct more testing. Tap into the expertise of the EBOLA taskforce;

Enforce use of MASKS in all public places including Transports, Supermarkets and open-air markets, in streets, etc. in addition to the SOCIAL DISTANCING and continual washing hands with soap or use alcohol-based sanitizers. Even if this means allowance of locally made available masks until at which time validation and large-scale production of local manufacturing of requisite masks are sanctioned or supply;

Authorize Humane Implementation of the State of Emergency; this goes particularly to our dedicated men and women in uniforms charge with responsibility to protect life and property of every citizen and resident throughout the republic to guarantee that peace, order and tranquility are maintained during this period. While enforcing this order, let us all remind ourselves that this State of Health Emergency or LOCKDOWN as termed in other countries are primarily meant to restore public health order not to fight felonious crimes, hence, should not be brutal as footage of uniform officers in places like Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and neighboring Sierra Leone has shown. Our people are already depressed psychologically coping this order;

It is also very crucial at this critical time to ensure that civil servants are paid on time. Also, recall miscellaneous finances and funding in various government ministries and agencies set aside for conferences, travels or workshops to empower the ECOCL to fight COVID-19; and

Lastly but not least, Honorable Members of the 54th Legislature, please call on the Central Bank of Liberia to regulate the financial market, cap interest on loans and put in place flexible payment mechanism especially for the microfinance banks; encourage more internet and mobile banking, empower farmers with agricultural inputs and tools.

In conclusion, honorable members of the 54th Legislature, I would like to emphasize that you discuss this STATE OF EMERGENCY with open-mindedness and free of humdrum political debates, this is no tragicomedy; let the life of our people be the CORONAVIRUS HERO not individuals. I am also imploring your honors to ensure through OVERSIGHT responsibility that the Liberia Electricity Corporation, Liberia Water and Sewage Corporation and providers of necessities guarantee unremitting service to our people as they STAY HOME and SAFE LIFE.

LET’S AVOID THE EBOLA SCENARIO. 

With esteem honor, I present my suggestions.

Kindest regards,

SALIA S. SHERIFF
Lecturer and Graduate Teaching Research Assistant
University of Liberia/University of Eldoret

[email protected]/[email protected]

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