Written by Cheadol H. Sidibey

Mr. President, I’d like to call your attention to the third wave of the coronavirus in Liberia. A few months ago, our social media platforms, which were formerly regarded as places of amusement and fun, were transformed into places of grief and agony. It is heartbreaking and disheartening to learn that, as a result of this fatal coronavirus, we have been met on our newsfeeds with death news every time we check any of the social media platforms in the previous two weeks.

Mr. President, the window of opportunity is closing due to the rapid rise of verified cases, and the government must step up efforts to reach out to its people, inspire and organize them as the country faces a collective peril.

Mr. President, I have been concerned about the impact of the epidemic on schooling. According to research, the pandemic’s influence on schooling has been massive. According to Unesco, “over 1.5 billion learners in 165 countries are affected by Covid-19 school closures.” According to scientist Moses Ngware, “about 297 million learners in Africa have been affected.” Never before have we seen such a massive upheaval in schooling.

As education shifts to online platforms in countries throughout the world, the issue now is whether we are prepared to follow suit. What are we doing to ensure that Liberia is not left behind, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Mr. President, are you aware that our inability to find a proper solution to this devastating situation, as well as a prolonged period of school closure, will increase the number of rape cases, forced female genital mutilation, early child marriage, and other unwholesome activities, putting girls at a high risk of dropping out when schools reopen?

Mr. President, I trust you are also aware that Covid-19 pandemic lockdown measures would prevent hundreds of girls with disabilities from accessing disability-friendly programs, such as much-needed specialist face-to-face therapy and inclusive education services. Unfortunately, most people with disabilities are unable to obtain information on how to protect themselves against the virus since most communications are not yet packed in a disability-friendly way.

As a result, a more proactive strategy is required in this respect. It is suggested that the government organize purchase of necessary critical health equipment for testing, quarantine, and medical care as soon as possible, in collaboration with international partners. These must be supplemented by the execution of government instructions at all levels.

The most essential immediate steps in terms of controlling the virus’s spread are border control (since the virus is imported), case detection, isolation, and social distance. It is critical that the government act immediately.

The virus spreads in an exponential fashion, which means that preventing one case today has a positive impact on the number of cases in the future.

Complete shutdowns would have to be accompanied with social safety measures such as temporary or unemployment compensation in the future. This would mitigate the ensuing loss of livelihood prospects for the most vulnerable.

A pro-poor shutdown – one that allows vital businesses and livelihoods to continue while preventing large gatherings – might assist the government in leveraging scarce health care resources for those who need it the most while minimizing panic buying at the moment.

The government, in collaboration with donors and the business sector, should undertake concerted efforts to secure domestic and foreign resources, particularly those from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

These might serve to speed up the coordination and implementation of preparedness, mitigation, and reaction actions, as well as function as a buffer against other social and economic shocks.

However, there is a need to increase public awareness and sensitization in order to adequately educate individuals about the severity of the disease, its implications for different age groups, and persons with pre-existing health issues. Proactive communications methods may be necessary to get these messages to rural areas, where the reaction may be less successful than expected at this vital moment. Given the cultural values that underpin social connectivity as a currency for developing resilience, context-specific ways to conveying mitigating actions may be required.

Collective involvement and message through community influencers, guardians of faith and traditions is essential in this regard.

Respecting fundamental hygiene standards, such as washing hands many times each day, is an excellent place to start.

About the author:

Cheadol H. Sidibey is a 12th grade student of the Muslim Congress High School and CEO of Kaidol Children Foundation. She is also Asst. PRO of Books Before Boys INC.

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