Monrovia, Liberia. July 14, 2014
The National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) on Saturday, July 12, 2014 held a memorial service for their colleagues who died while attending to other Liberians who were infected by Ebola. The memorial service was a public admission of the unfolding impact of Ebola in Liberia. The service was held at the Restoration Baptist Ministries in Congo Town, Liberia.
In his welcome statement to the participants, Jerry Kollie, the President of the Physician’s Assistant Association of Liberia, said, “the health workers of Liberia are facing the danger of the Ebola in the absence of needed protective gear.” “At the moment, several health workers are now quarantined throughout the country in several health facilities,” Mr. Kollie stated. He challenged health workers to protect themselves from exposure to the virus in the administration of their medical duties. Currently, health care facilities are experiencing significant delays in receiving needed protective gear and other supplies.
For his part, Senator Peter Coleman, former Health Minister and health worker himself, said Liberians need to accept the fact that Ebola is real and killing people. Mr. Coleman, who described the health workers as front-line soldiers in the war against Ebola, said they need to take up the challenge and begin educating the community.
He lamented the failures of the Liberia government in addressing this issue with urgency. “If the President of Nigeria can donate money to Liberia for the fight against the Ebola virus, why is the government of Liberia so slow in responding,” Senator Coleman questioned. The health worker turned politician called on the public to join the campaign in preventing the spread of Ebola. “We had to call in the Police Support Unit to stop one family from taking their relative home who had died from Ebola at the John F. Kennedy Hospital,” Coleman stressed. “Ebola has now been declared a medical emergency by the Government of Liberia,” Dr. Coleman concluded.
Chanting “Injury to one is injury to all,” the health workers filled the hall with boos when the name of the current Liberia Health Minister was called on for his contribution and remarks, however he was not present. The entire Ministry of Health was conspicuously absent from the memorial service and only two lawmakers,Senator Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County and Senator George Tengbeh of Lofa County, attended.
Contrary to previous public denial, the memorial service for the eight health workers affirmed publicly the presence and impact of Ebola in Liberia.
The memorial service was in honor of eight health workers including Ramuson Tamba Lendan and James Tamba Daah who are believed to be the first victims among the health workers stricken. The service was organized by the Collaborating Civil Society and Trade Union Institutions of Liberia (CCTIL) with the Secretariat of the Human Rights Monitor of the United Methodist Church of Liberia.