SMA reports on effects of Liberian State of Emergency

President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson has declared a State of Emergency in Liberia due to the increasing rate of infections and deaths from the Ebola virus, which has now spread to eight counties in the Republic and has led to more than 250 deaths, including 32 healthcare workers. There are confirmed reports of people cremating their dead locally as they fear that admitting to the disease will lead to them, and their homes, being quarantined by the authorities.

Hospitals and clinics are now viewed as death traps and Liberians are travelling to areas not yet affected in the hope of avoiding the virus. But the State of Emergency has now stopped free movement of people around the country.

Two weeks ago, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, the President instructed all non-essential government staff to stay home for 30 days, ordered the closure of schools and authorized the fumigation of all public buildings. Markets were shut down in affected areas.

In her statement to the Liberian people yesterday, 6 August 2014, the President states that “the Ebola virus disease, the ramifications and consequences thereof, now constitute an unrest affecting the existent security and well-being of the Republic, amounting to a clear and present danger… The healthcare system in the country is now under immense strain, and the Ebola epidemic is having a chilling effect on overall healthcare delivery. Out of fear of being infected with the disease, healthcare practitioners are afraid to accept new patients, especially in community clinics all across the country. Consequently, many common diseases, which are especially prevalent during the rainy season, such as malaria, typhoid and common colds, are going untreated and may lead to unnecessary and preventable deaths.” Detailing the measures the government has taken the President goes on, “Despite this and other continuing efforts, the threat continues to grow. Ignorance, poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices continue to exacerbate the spread of the disease, especially in the counties. The actions allowed by statute under the Public Health Law are no longer adequate to deal with the Ebola epidemic as comprehensive[ly] and holistic[ally] as the outbreak requires. The scope and scale of the epidemic, the virulence and deadliness of the virus now exceed the capacity and statutory responsibility of any one government agency or ministry. The Ebola virus disease, the ramifications and consequences thereof, now constitute an unrest affecting the existent security and well-being of the Republic, amounting to a clear and present danger.”

In light of the above the President has declared “a State of Emergency throughout the Republic of Liberia, effective as of August 6, 2014, for a period of ninety (90) days.” The President concludes her Address invoking God’s blessing: “May God bless us all and preserve our great Nation.”

The consequences were immediately felt throughout the country as confirmed to us by an SMA missionary working in the interior of Liberia.

‘About 6pm this evening (Wednesday) I went into town to buy something. When I reached the Police Checkpoint I was told that the gate was closed. I could only turn back to the Mission house. It seems that no vehicles will be permitted to and from Monrovia, in an effort to contain the transmission of the virus. So it appears that Bomi County has been placed under quarantine with some supervision from the Armed Forces of Liberia and police; we will know more about the implications of this during the next few days.

There has been a deteriorating situation concerning the Ebola since the latter part of July.

The Ebola Centre at ELWA, Monrovia, is over stretched for admissions. As you are probably aware, Brother Patrick Nshamdze, OH, died last Saturday. St Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Monriva is closed for now and it is one of the principal hospitals in the Capital.

Here in our small town there have been more than a dozen cases with some deaths; even today, the police and soldiers were apparently sent to quarantine the house where two people had reportedly died either last night, or this morning.’ [end of eyewitness report].

The Society of African Missions [SMA] were the founding missionaries of the Church in Liberia in 1906. It was the principal mission of the Irish SMA for many decades. Today there are 9 SMA priests from several countries working in two of the three dioceses in the country: Monrovia and Gbarnga. See exact placements here.

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