When the World Health Organization or WHO warned Liberians to be cautious of how to go about celebrating its declaration that the country was free of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, many may have taken such warning for granted.
The WHO had actually cautioned Liberians about the continuous presence of Ebola in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, and that there was a possibility of recurrence of the disease if the necessary prescribed precautionary or preventive measures did not continue not only in Monrovia and its environs, but various ports of entry across the country, including the borders with the two countries.
With all of the commitment, will-power and efforts shown by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf against any recurrence of Ebola, the issue of absolute border-control still remains questionable, even though the porous nature of our borders may seem understandable.
A few weeks ago, speculations suggested a recurrence of the disease in Lofa and certain part of Monrovia, Deputy Health Minister-designate Tolbert Nyenswa dismissed the reports as false and misleading, noting that an ailing Guinean woman from across the border intercepted by his surveillance team at a checkpoint in the Town of Bellefanai in Bong County, was tested negative of the virus, and that there was no need for the population to panic- everything was under control.
Just of late, Ebola was rumored to be in Margibi County –information now confirmed by Liberian Health authorities, including Deputy Minister-designate Tolbert Nyebswah.
“Specimen from the remains of a 17 year old corpse tested positive on two occasions after our burial team moved into the village and safely took the specimen before safe burial of the corpse”, Nyenswah disclosed on Monday, June 29, 2015 following the death of the 17- year old Ebola victim in the village of Nedowian in Margibi County.
“We did the test twice and it all came positive, but there is no need to panic; quickly detecting means our system is working,” he assured.
Even though Tolbert Nyenswah may have ruled out the possibility of the disease from across our borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone during a local radio interview, such assurance may equally be difficult to accept, owing to the lack of understanding of how the Ebola disease actually resurfaced in Margibi County- 51 days after the WHO declared Liberia Ebola-free.
While we owe heartfelt gratitude to Liberian Health authorities and workers, as well as our country’s international partners for the fight and success against the disease up to May 2015 and our efforts as a people in helping ourselves against recurrence, the reality still remains that there is a high degree of complacency at all levels, especially in areas of our country bordering our neighbors in the north and east- whether or not we have huge presence of surveillance teams along the borders with all of the logistics, incentives and benefits, it is yet to be established.
We are of the fervent belief that except for the continuous public awareness on radio, TV and newspapers on preventive measures, there need for “less talk by Nyenswa and others and more work” on the ground cannot be over-emphasized.
While we as a people may not be deterred by this latest incidence because of our experience in “Ebola management and containment”, all efforts must be made to fully capacitated health workers at all levels, especially during this rainy season in readiness to move against any eventuality anywhere, including the border lines.
We also join Liberian health authorities in urging Liberians across the country not to panic or harbor any fear of news of Ebola resurfacing, but to remain resolved against any attempt of the disease in their respective neighborhoods, communities, towns, cities, etc, etc.
We must help the government and partners by helping ourselves not only against any attempt of Ebola recurrence, but other curative diseases.