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Liberian virus containment efforts


08-11-2014 09:52 BJT

Full coverage: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Liberia has launched ‘Operation White Shield,’ which see soldiers being deployed at checkpoints outside Monrovia, the capital, to restrict people’s movements as part of the country’s emergency measures to better fight Ebola. 

Health workers have been stationed next to soldiers at checkpoints, taking the temperatures of commuters. People with temperatures above normal were blocked from leaving. But local communities are having a hard time because of a lack of medical resources. 

In Johnny Town, a small Liberian town, traders from across the local area normally gather on market day. But village elders are driving people away; they do not want outsiders in their town.

"We hear over the radio that there should be no public gathering. If you get 2 or 3 people together you do not know who may have encountered the virus. When you go around the person, the same virus that person has, you might get it. And then it will spread. That is the reason the government has said no public gathering. We are stopping them here, we are driving them away we don’t have market here, until further orders," John Marsayan, a Johnny Town elder, said.

To try and contain Ebola, the government wants people to stay put, especially in the worst-affected areas. Armed security at checkpoints is stopping travel between districts. The measures are too tough for some.

"Life is getting very difficult. Now, some of us have to move around, buy something from the market, ride motorbikes and do other activities. Now the government is saying that everyone should remain home, everyone should stay at their various places. And, now, how do you go and make your life? We need to move around, make life and make money. And if you make money, you can buy something and eat, and now they are saying no market. No, it is very bad and very difficult," Philip Tamba, a resident of Kolahun in western Liberia, said.

The emergency measures may be very unpopular in some communities, but the Liberian government says that they are absolutely crucial to containing this Ebola outbreak and slowing down the rate of new infections. 

Dorfeslon Jayhuginayan is Voinjama’s district health officer. He manages a hotline for suspected Ebola cases. But the nearest treatment facility is a two-hour drive away and he has only got one ambulance at his disposal.

"We have only one case management center, which is in Foya. Voinjama alone sometimes has 10, 20, 30 cases in the community. I receive calls from this side, calls from this side, calls from this side. When I call to Foya... they tell me ‘No space today to receive new patients today.’ And so I go all day receiving calls from the community who say "we are calling you to tell you there are people here sick, here sick and here sick but you are no longer coming to pick up these patients!" so that’s become a serious trouble for me," Jayguhinayan said.

International donors have pledged millions in financial assistance. But in rural communities, the benefit of that money is yet to be felt.

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