FULL TEXT OF TQ HARRIS’ LETTER TO THE NATIONAL RESPONSE COORDINATOR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ON CORONAVIRUS (ECOC) IN LIBERIA
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Madam Mary Broh
National Response Coordinator
Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC) in Liberia
Dear Madam Broh:
I congratulate you on your appointment as National Response Coordinator of the Executive Committee on Management of the Coronavirus in Liberia.
By this letter, may I suggest, that the Committee grants you authorization to quickly mobilize those Liberians, who have the experience in implementing national house-to-house emergency relief material distribution to assist your efforts.
The situation we face today is not unlike that which existed during the Civil War, when all communities in the country — from Cape Mount to Maryland County; and from Nimba to Montserrado County – went into a virtual lockdown due to fear of death. I recall, in July 1990, when the fighting reached Monrovia, all organized institutions had collapsed and fear became the courage of the besieged population. It was a special emergency that only Liberians could best handle, and we did.
The current 21-day lockdown, as called for by the President, will begin to exhibit its true impact on the citizenry sometime after the seventh day, especially in urban areas such as Monrovia and all the county capitols, as well as in Ganta, Zorzor, Pleebo, etc. There is a need for the Government to mobilize resources for a house-to-house general food aid distribution, to buttress the coping capacity of households, especially those with children, lactating women, and the elderly. Otherwise, Liberia could experience a general malnutrition situation, during and immediately following the lockdown period.
With adequate Government and international resource support, it should not take long to organize and roll-out, a house-to-house national emergency material distribution system, as was done in the 1990s.
In spite of the intensity and scope of the problem back then, it took Liberians – without outside intervention – less than two weeks; from the day the US Embassy and the WFP agreed to allow them handle the planning and delivery of the emergency food aid, to have all the dwelling structures in the Monrovia region numbered and the population enumerated. The unique house numbering system developed, was quickly extended across the country; today, some structures still retain on their walls the numbers inscribed.
In the heat of the crisis, Liberians were able to build, within a relatively short period, a computerize address system where no two houses in the country had the same number. This made it possible to locate and target beneficiaries. One occupant in each structure was registered as the Principal Occupant. Printed food-aid delivery slips were provided, door-to-door, on which the number of occupants of each structure and the quantity of rice, oil, beans and other items were listed. The structure numbering system, allowed the targeted-delivery of emergency food aid material, directly to residents within their respective neighborhoods. There was no need to travel outside their neighborhood or dwelling area to receive food ration and other emergency assistance.
Food slips were distributed monthly to all Principal Occupants as an entitlement notice. The system was comprehensively decentralized and very accountable. It enabled the WFP and other emergency aid providers, to determine the quantity of the respective donor food aid items received and warehoused at the Free Port of Monrovia; and which truck was used on what date, to transport commodities to neighborhoods across the country.
You might agree that the problem created by the Coronavirus COVID-19 emergency, requires mobilization of Liberia’s experts, on the issue of how to quickly organize and put into operation, a national emergency aid distribution network. At the moment, every country is preoccupied with its own challenges and are mobilizing local expertise to deal with the pandemic.
Those Liberians who built and managed the emergency relief material distribution service in the 1990s, should be called upon to quickly work out details and assist you, to oversee a national COVID-19 aid material distribution network. The system worked well and was in place for six years – through the end of the crisis. Considering the current level of technical advancement, it should be easier to create and implement a workable and accountable material distribution system that will effectively address the current emergency.
A number of the individuals who organized and led the successful national material distribution network during the crisis in the 1990s are around and available; they include Ambassador Blamoh Nelson who is currently on assignment as Liberia’s Ambassador to Japan; the Rev. Dr. Kortu Brown, Head of the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC); Mr. Michael C. G. George, Chief Executive Officer of the Rapid Food Production Initiative (RFPI); Representative J. Nagbe Sloh; Mr. Tonnolah Vaplah; and Miss Miata Gittens. Also, Mr. Alvin Brown currently at the Ministry of National Defense; and Mrs. Agnes Wilson-Perkins, Head of the Inspectorate in the office of the Court Administrator at the Supreme Court of Liberia. I’m certain there are others who will gladly join the Coronavirus COVID-19 Special Emergency Material Distribution exercise to ensure its success.
Indeed, this is the time for all Liberians, particularly those who have had direct hands-on experience and technical knowhow to plan and manage national distribution of emergencies relief material, to be called into action so as to mitigate the impact of a general lockdown of communities and the country at large.
T Q Harris