By Mark Mengonfia
Imagine waking up and hearing news of a total lockdown when you do not have the first fund to prepare for said situation, this is the case with many Liberians including women, civil Servants who are all worried about the government’s pronouncement to have citizens and other Nationals stay at home for three weeks or 21 days as means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Liberian President George Weah in keeping with Articles 85, 86, 87, and 88 of the Liberian Constitution on April 8, 2020 declared a State of Emergency, to exist in and throughout the Republic of Liberia, for a period of three (3) weeks, renewable until the threat to Liberia from the COVID-19 no longer exists.
This pronouncement has received mixed reactions from the public with others describing it as untimely, inhumane and a high level of insensitivity on the part of the government; while others think it is timely and welcoming to save lives.
Since the pronouncement was made by the President, the scramble for food has increased.
Those with financial might were able to secure for them and their families while those who live on handouts, petty business with little income are yet to overcome what is expected to happen to them and their realities if government does not do some interventions.
“We are hungry, no money, no food,” Salome Moore told reporters on VAMUMA road where they usually gather to seek handouts to cater to their homes.
Becoming emotional, she said “the government wants us to die, they said they are scary of the virus killing us, but staying home without food will still kill us. that is why they want use stay home.”
She said “today some people give us five cups, some people give half bag of rice to 5 or 6 persons.”
Annie Zio who has 6 grandchildren to cater for said, “I do not have husband, my son who told me to come to Monrovia was poisoned in food and died so I am the only person those children depending on to live looking into the few cups of rice she was able to collect from people of good will.”
For her part, Sarah Gbayou, a former contractor at the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) said, nobody to help
Part of the Presidents pronouncement states that as a further measure under this State of Emergency, all Liberians and residents within the borders of Montserrado County, Margibi County, Nimba County, and Grand Kru County are to STAY AT HOME for the next 14 days, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020.
Responding to the mandate, madam Gbayou said “I agree with it, but we will sit-down with empty hands for hunger to kill us?”
Civil Servants On SOE
Not only those over hundred women who had to break health protocols by gathering in the streets to beg for ends meets, civil servants are also worried and over beat about how they are going to cater for their family.
Moses Johns, a diabetes patient who lives and work in the Cotton Tree community in Harbel, Lower Margibi has not gotten his monthly salary to get him prepare for the ongoing lockdown.
“I have been checking on my phone since government said they have started paying, each time I heard message alarm and check it, it is COVID-19 message adding things to some of us who have health problems and cannot eat on,” he said.
People who are sufferer of diabetes are restricted to some kinds of food as means of managing their health.
Old man Johns said “my food now is green plantains bulger wheat and I have to prepare for my household as well.”
Mr. Johns said “if it is not by the help of God and his backbone his wife it he does not know how he would have manage at the time his family need him the most.”
He used the opportunity to plead with the government to pay them remuneration for about two months adding I am pleading with the government to help us.
Liberia Civil Servant president is Mulbah Johnson welcomes the decision by the government to keep Liberians safe.
One problem he has with the decision is that government inability to have paid them on time adding it has become a major problem.
“In the face of this crisis, lots of us have not received our salary he said. It is a serious problem.”
He called on the government to prevail on commercial banks to extend work on modalities that will enable those who have received salaries withdraw their money.
“If government does not intervene, instead of the sickness killing us, hunger will kill us,” he added.
A single mother, Fannie Grams with over 20 children said she has message from the bank ” the message came late.” She said till now, she has not been able to get the money from the bank. With her responsibility, she said she is expecting a very difficult times during the stay home or lockdown.
She concluded by saying “When you say the cat should not eat the fish, tell the fish to not smell. If you say we should stay home, pay the people. Adding before the virus can reach us without food, we will all be dead.”
Adama Dempster now heads the secretariat of a network of Liberia’s leading 30 human rights groups, the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform coordinates civil society actors advocating for human rights.
Dempster said the government did not take into consideration Humanitarian package before taking its decision adding ” the issue of starvation was not considered, it does not address rights of people.”
There are provisions in United Nations High Commission on human rights which is violated if the Liberian Government does nothing to revert the mistakes made.
The Office of High Commission on Human Rights ( OHCHR) has provisions that speaks to protecting human rights in humanitarian crises.
Humanitarian crises such as man-made conflicts, natural disasters and pandemics often result in or exacerbate human rights concerns.
The OHCHR also has it that in addition, deteriorating human rights situations may trigger crises and increase humanitarian needs of affected populations.
OHCHR applies a human rights-based approach to humanitarian action, securing the participation of the affected population in preparedness, response and recovery efforts. We aim at empowering people to claim their rights and strengthening the capacities and accountability of duty-bearers to meet their legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws.
At global level, through the participation in humanitarian coordination structures, try to integrate the protection of human rights in humanitarian action.
OHCHR also provides strategic, substantive and operational guidance to field presences and emergency deployments, but these provisions that should be observed by the government and implemented in adherence to international human rights instruments.
” Let us have a government that will be human sensitive, that will take into consideration the rights of human” Dempster said.