At least 500 people have died from the virulent Ebola virus disease in Liberia since the outbreak in March 2014, according to health officials, and two human right based organizations, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) and the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) have alarmed.
Addressing a press conference in Monrovia last Thursday (Aug 21) in Monrovia, the two organizations lauded the government and partners for the efforts so far in containing the virus, but said it was spreading fast.
“…Despite measures announced by the government of Liberia and commitments by the international community, we are deeply troubled by the increase in new cases of Ebola and Ebola related deaths in communities far beyond areas where the virus initially broke out,” they said in a statement.
“While we agree that there must be some very stringent measures to adequately combat the Ebola Virus from our country, we think some of the approaches especially the use of force by state security to ensure compliance is not only counterproductive but would rather exacerbate an already fragile situation and cause citizens to resist these measures,” the statement, which is published below in details, noted.
Joint Statement Issued by the JPC and FIND
(Monrovia, Liberia …August 21, 2014) The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, JPC and the Foundation for International Dignity, FIND commend efforts of the government of Liberia, the international community and law abiding citizens in combating the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, EVD which has now claimed the lives of hundreds of our compatriots.
The JPC and FIND laud the government for putting the outbreak of the virus on the pedestal and making it an upmost national emergency and the World Health Organization for recognizing the epidemic as an international health emergency.
However, despite measures announced by the government of Liberia and commitments by the international community, we are deeply troubled by the increase in new cases of Ebola and Ebola related deaths in communities far beyond areas where the virus initially broke out.
While we agree that there must be some very stringent measures to adequately combat the Ebola Virus from our country, we think some of the approaches especially the use of force by state security to ensure compliance is not only counterproductive but would rather exacerbate an already fragile situation and cause citizens to resist these measures.
Survey conducted by the JPC and FIND clearly depicts that when the communities are consulted and involved in the process, the fight will be holistic as proven by the people Geewloh in the Mount Barclay community where community people have voluntarily quarantined their community after the death of at least thirteen people from Ebola.
Government has admitted to being overwhelmed by the outbreak of the Ebola disease which has been demonstrated by the delays in responding to Ebola related cases in Monrovia alone where it takes days for bodies to be recovered and these new measures will only put more strain on the already scare resources of government and additional burden on an already impoverished citizenry.
Based on these facts gathered, the JPC and FIND would like to recommend the following:
1. Broad base consultation with affected communities in dealing with the spread of the virus as opposed to using force or military presence. A community based processes is recommended. Government must seek to win the hearts and minds of its citizens rather than impose authority by force.
2. The establishment of Ebola holding or treatment centers should involve consultation and participation of community people in avoiding the repeat of the west Point scenario and when confirmed after testing be transferred for treatment by the health team. Communities must play the leading role in setting up and providing security for the centers with adequate support from the government.
3. The establishment of community task forces to reduce the response time to Ebola related cases and burial. The community task force must be charged with the responsibility of identifying community volunteers who must be trained and provided the necessary safety gears by government to initiate burials at the community levels to reduce violence in communities and the huge work load on the burial teams.
4. The putting in place of community-led actions that would prevent communities that have not had any outbreaks to safeguard such communities.
Finally, we encourage government to review some of the measures already taken, many of which tend to undermine its effort to deal with the outbreak. For instance the deployment of the military and police around affected communities to compel community residents to follow the necessary safely measures to prevent the spread of the virus. In our view, if community members are provided the support, they could better fight spread.
Signed: Roosevelt Woods—Executive Director of FIND and Pilate Johnson, Action Director of JPC