Measures being implemented by the Government of Liberia to prevent spread of the COVID-19, including demolition of marketers’ stalls is pushing citizens, most of them already at the margin of society, into grinding poverty and near death.
Like in most African countries, majority of Liberians survive thru the informal sector, by engaging in petty trade. But the current demolition of market stalls as part of measures to promote social distancing appears to be having serious negative impact on ordinary citizens, making daily sustenance almost impossible.
Authorities here have already shut down schools, churches, and mosques, among others as well as restrict large public gatherings in a string of preventive measures to maintain public safety.
But what seems to being ignored by the government is some form of stimulus package to help vulnerable citizens losing their only means of making life keep surviving until the crisis subsides any time soon.
Government’s response seems one-sided, as focus is placed on shutting down, sending non-essential employees home, amid looming shortages of basic commodities and rising prices. Citizens’ survivability is a problem here.
While we welcome these early measures, unexpected or corresponding repercussions should not be ignored or brushed aside, as if they do not exist. Students are not in school, parents are sent on compulsory leave and market stalls are being demolished. How do the people survive?
Hunger can push anyone to do something he never planned just to stay alive. And the way the authorities are proceeding may attract such deviant options unless current policies or responses are reconsidered.
Surely, the Government of Liberia is not interested in protecting corpses, but human lives. However, uncalculated measures against COVID-19 could boomerang if care were not taken, as the reality seems to be.
Shutting down businesses, particularly in the informal sector in the absence of a national supportive package could become counter-productive not only to the population but the government itself, as it could invite a serious social problem for the entire country.
We are not prophets of doom, but this is an honest endeavor to get our leaders to consider both sides of the coins before acting.