Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard – Taylor is admonishing Liberians and residents that can afford to begin buying their own food and to also reach out to those that cannot afford, as she opines that the government may not have the money to share food with 2.5m people.
Interviewed via telephone Tuesday morning, 28 April by a local radio station, Madam Howard – Taylor asserted that her “small opinion” is that government does not have the money to share food with 2.5m people, saying her information is that government may share with nurses, securities – because they are on the frontline – and those who cannot afford.
She gives the caution as the country enters a second batch of 14 days lockdown in which Liberians look eagerly to see food distributions taken to their doorsteps, having heard of lawmakers’ approval of President George MannehWeah’s proposed stimulus package to facilitate food distribution to designated households.
Madam Howard – Taylor says she thinks the government will share food with hospitals, orphanages, less fortunate people and those that cannot afford.In a communication dated 13 April, President Weah requested the Legislature to re-appropriate US$25 million for the remainder of the 2019/2020 budget year in support of the government’s stimulus package to facilitate food distribution for designated households for 60 days, as Liberians remained under lockdown measures due to increasing coronavirus cases.
He indicated that he wanted the government to have the World Food Program implement this program, and for the government to fully pay loans owed by vulnerable market people, take up the electricity bill of households in the affected counties, as he proposed similar support for the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation.
But in approving the stimulus package, the Legislature made amendment by granting President Weah’s request for US$25 million to support food distribution to households in affected counties and putting aside the request for the Executive to pay loans owed by vulnerable market people, as the former awaited the latter to send the budget for lawmakers to know the details.
The first 14 days of the lockdown which started on Saturday, 11 April, ended on Friday, 24 April but President Weah extended the measure on Friday as coronavirus cases continue to rise to over 140 cases and more deaths reported.In the interview, the vice president expresses apology to the Church here for the manner in which security forces treated christian worshipers in enforcement of health protocols banning gathering of people at the start of the crisis.
“I want to say to them we are sorry, this was not intentional,” Madam Howard – Taylor says, adding that the government wanted everyone to know that this is serious.At the same time, she encourages the security forces here to calm down a little bit and limit the beating of people in enforcing the regulations, as she continues to express sorry to Church leaders for what happened when their worship centers were being closed.
She recognizes that churches were full of worshipers before police moved in to shut them down because when the health crisis started, the government didn’t do what it should have to prevent such a situation.
Vice President Howard – Taylor also commands the Muslim Community for adhering to the health protocols by staying at home and praying at home especially during the month of Ramadan, recalling that Muslims lost their relatives during the Ebola crisis here because many of them may not have adhered to the messages at the time.
But she warns that if people start talking about opening the Church at this time, “we will lose this fight,” given that the virus stays in the air for eight hours and poses risk to worshipers congregating in Churches and Mosques.
She recommends that Christians and Muslims use their homes as worship centers for them and their families during this crisis, saying “Let’s pray at home,” because “it will be risky at this time to start congregating in Churches.”She pleads with Church leaders to start getting on the radio to spread the coronavirus messages because when a Pastor talks about this, everybody knows it’s serious.
She believes that coordination is a component that is missing in this coronavirus fight, thus posing a challenge in dealing with the crisis.Madam Howard – Taylor recalls that During the Ebola crisis, former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf didn’t close Churches or do a lockdown, but people stayed at home without being told because they knew it was serious.
She believes that many more people need to get involved in the fight, including community leaders and elected officials so that the people know it’s serious for the country to avoid experts’ projection of seeing increasing cases and more deaths.She pleads with the media to continue giving support in spreading the messages, while also stressing the need for officials to find funding to mobilize the media.
By Winston W. Parley