Since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus disease, one person widely internationally bided to offer advice and counsel towards deriving solution is Liberia’s former president, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has been amongst renowned international panelists and eminent world leaders consulted to share their wisdom and expertise in repelling the pandemic, and she is widely quoted on her sharp and witty interventions—all this because her leadership and wisdom beat the most dreadful Ebola virus in no time. It is not known how well she is consulted in the war against COVID-19 on the home front but when picked an opportunity yesterday at a public forum, she offered salient and useful counsel, which if heeded, could reverse the rising tide of the pandemic in the country. The Analyst reports.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has propounded a set of prescriptions that Liberia could use to tackle the novel coronavirus disease which has taken a steady strength against what is currently being done in the country.
COVID-19 started on a slow pace, and it appeared much was being done to contain it in the first few months. The Government of the day was seemed increasing efforts, declaring a state of emergency and enforcing regulations and protocols. But in the last two months, even before the expiry of the state of emergency, things appear to go awry and the pandemic’s casualties began to increase in terms of infestation and death.
This is a cause of for concern, and civil society groups are intensifying efforts to raise national consciousness and mobilize expert interventions and counsels.
On Tuesday, August 11, 2020, the Faith and Justice Network Interactive Forum convene a panel to share ideas and ways forward in the fight against the pandemic. Rightfully, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was invited and she offered a fruit of thoughts.
The Ebola virus disease which consumed four thousand Liberians met Madam Sirleaf President of Liberia, and amid the confusion, devastation and pandemonium caused by the virus, she fought back fiercely and got victory in a few months’ time.
With the worth of experience, she told the Forum that in order to beat coronavirus, four key things have to be done and achieved.
“Communication. We learned that there is need for continuing, timely, and honest information to the public to ensure compliance and effective implementation of containment policies and measures,” the former Liberia leader said. “Coordination. It is important that all national stakeholders are working from a coordinated common agenda.”
She also added: “Leadership. Only ‘hands-on’ exemplary leadership can engender confidence and make the hard, and sometimes, unpopular decisions in the national interest. Partnership. The world is interconnected and intertwined, even more so through digital technology and travel. Through partnerships and assistance with equipment, medical supplies, technical assistance, and financial support, combined with the resilience of Liberians, we able to defeat the virus in record time.”
“Today,” the Ebola heroine said, “Liberia is recognized for having defeated Ebola in record time. Of course, overcoming Ebola as we did was contrary to the predictions of up to twenty thousand deaths monthly. We invited our people to own the problem and the solution. Gratefully, Liberians responded.”
She continued: “Our spirit of resilience shone through. Our people took charge of their lives and livelihoods. Indeed, we were assisted internationally but there can be no doubt that the change began when ordinary Liberians took charge across their communities, and when community healthcare workers, 80 percent of whom were women, stood up gallantly in the fight. We came to see that we can overcome our challenges when we fight together.”
The former President said there are other valuable lessons from our experience with Ebola. They include communication, coordination, leadership and partnership.
“Today, we are faced with Covid-19, an economic and health-shock that is leaving devastating costs in lives and stifling out livelihoods,” Madam Sirleaf said, adding: “Such is the effect of Covid-19 on the world that death tolls are rising, healthcare systems are collapsing, economies are crumbling, political tensions are increasing, and social inequalities are expanding. Even the well-resourced health systems are under severe stress and being rapidly overwhelmed by the intensity of the transmission.”
According to her, Africa has not been as hard-hit in terms of the number of cases but the total has now reached one million with predictions of more if we do not continue to observe the health protocols.
“Liberia too has not been spared. However, we continue to register manageable number of cases, if the quality of our reporting is reliable,” she counseled. “Even as we deal with the Pandemic, we must begin to look ahead and plan for the after effect, which is yet to come.”
She said these will include declines in the rate of economic growth, with negative effects on investments; declines in production due to disruptions in the supply chain resulting into commodity price increase; and declines in debt sustainability as well as in the overall quality of life.
Madam Sirleaf, who is World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador further noted: “Yes, there are, and will be hard times ahead. The answer, however, lies with Liberians. We will have to count on each other more than we would be expected to count on others outside. The changing environment suggests a world in which countries will look more inward than they will afford to look outward. Unlike Ebola, we may not have the depth of partnerships that we were able to mobilize.”
She said “our national leaders have a responsibility in this regard – to use properly the stimulus support that have been provided, by channeling these resources to productive endeavors and to those really in need. We must care for the most vulnerable amongst us, and look to use available resources as prudently as we possibly can.”
“Our churches have a responsibility too – to guide the flocks. This is possible by lifting the voices of the church in truth, and teaching that we take responsibilities for the direction of our lives and the advances we wish to make while asking the Almighty for his blessings and protection along the way. Human progress comes from hard work and honesty, for no matter how much God loves us, his promise must be fulfilled – “by the sweat of your brow, shall you eat bread”. This promise is true for us, too.”
Madam Sirleaf said Liberia’s reality is one of difficulties, complexities and uncertainties.
In the midst of these challenges, she said, change, for the worse or the better, is occurring all about – everywhere in the world.
“We must respond. The church must respond. Our country must respond. We must change with the time and learn to adjust to the changing circumstances of our reality because change does not adjust to mankind. It is mankind who must always adjust to change,” she asserted.
She called on Liberians to treat each other more humanely. “We must treat each other more fairly. We must respect and care about each other more because as we are experiencing, our lives have come to depend on the lives of each other. Our health has come to be critically linked to the health of people we know and those we don’t. This is the new behavior that will see us survive Covid-19. And this, too, is the new national behavior that will see us deal with the aftereffects of the deadly Pandemic.”