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Special Feature

Ebola Crisis: The NPA and its roles

The deadly Ebola outbreak has been a major challenge for all Liberians. The virus killed thousands of Liberians when it first hit our nation, creating fear and panic among citizens. Liberia became the major headline news stories of international news outlets- probably for the wrong reasons-Ebola. The cases of two of our citizens- Patrick Sawyer and Eric Duncan, as far as exporting Ebola to Nigeria and the United States of America further created the negative perception in those countries about Liberians so much so that our compatriots visiting the United States today are quarantined for 21-days.

Three ways by which the virus is exported from country to country by human beings are Air, land and Water. The virus first entered Liberia from Guinea and from Guinea to Sierra Leone by land, while it (virus) entered Nigeria by air through the Late Patrick Sawyer.

The Ebola virus is yet to be exported by way of water transport, through sea ports in Liberia as was done through land and air by some Liberians and the Late Patrick Sawyer and Eric Duncan. Individuals and institutions in Liberia exerted all efforts in buttressing what the government was doing to prevent the disease from further spreading. Among such institutions was the National Port Authority or NPA.

If every entry and exit points in the country were to put in place the necessary preventive measures as done by the National Port Authority, the disease would not have spread rapidly as we experienced. While we may not want to blame institutions responsible for other ports of entry, including Airports and borders for the outbreak of the virus,  there were very less than much done to contain the spread of the virus.

As for the NPA, it went the extra miles not only putting in place all of the necessary preventive measures just upon hearing about the outbreak, but ensuring adherence and creating vigorous awareness among port management and employees, as well as port users and visitors. The NPA Management, through managing Director Matilda Parker, ensured temperature testing, thorough and regular hygiene practices at every point of entry of the port facilities and offices, as well as a temporary isolation unit to hold suspected Ebola patients until evacuation by health workers for further screening and treatment.

As part of its preventive measures, the NPA vowed to deny permission for any vessel crew member to disembark at Liberia’s four seaports until the epidemic was brought under control. It also cancelled shore passes of vessels coming into Liberia, i.e., absolutely no one from vessels will be allowed down.

With all of the measures put in place at the NPA, lives can still be saved by allowing vessels to continue their SOS calls.  In the event an individual is ail on a vessel or a vessel is under stress, depending on the magnitude of the illness or situation, the NPA would allow the vessel entry for such ailing person to be taken directly to the care center. For dock workers going onboard vessels, there three layers of screening to undergo at the gate, at the security desk and also at the pier. They are under instruction not to get in contact with anyone on board.

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After conducting two dramatic skits with employees of the NPA on measures to respond to any outbreak weeks after, the Managing Director of the NPA, Matilda Parker, indicated that the measures were part of the policies instituted by the port. Most often in institutions, policies may evolve, but implementing such policies to the latter not only in the interest of the institution or individuals, but the nation in general is more paramount and rewarding.

Other than its success in containing the spread of Ebola to the Free Port of Monrovia et al, the NPA Management and Dock Workers Union also extended its humanitarian tentacles to a number of medical centers, including the Phebe Hospital in Central Liberia’s Bong County, making available hospital beds, Personal Protective Equipment or PPEs, as well as other medical supplies intended to boost the fight against the disease. In any rational mind, this was out of selflessness as far as the institution’s corporate social responsibility is concerned.

Because the NPA is the gate way to Liberia’s economy, the Parker Management needed to put in place all it could to avoid any report or case of Ebola at the Free Port of Monrovia and others – a rewarding success not only for the NPA, but us all.

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