Sirleaf administration needs to act fast to educate citizens about carbon monoxide poisoning, or regulate portable generators
By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
In 2012, my colleague Taiyee N. Quenneh (PhD), writing in The Liberian Dialogue, drew our collective attention to the unfortunate deaths of two friends, Tupee Myers and Alpha Ashong to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The two friends who had their eyes set on attending AME University at the time of their unfortunate passing, actually died in 2008, when their decomposed bodies were discovered in Paynesville.
Over the years, however, other Liberians have either died from carbon monoxide poisoning, or luckily survived the odorless but highly toxic gas.
The most notable survival of national stature who barely made it through from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2011 is former warlord and ULIMO-K leader Alhaji Kromah. Unfortunately, his security guard did not make it to 2012.
Not long after Mr. Kromah’s unfortunate ordeal occurred, the young attorney, Nathaniel Jerboh lost his life to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The latest tragedy in 2016 are the deaths of Lawrence Gross and Shelly K. Gross of Minnesota, who traveled to Liberia (Monrovia) to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The couple died around the Christmas holiday season just days after they arrived in the country.
The deaths of Lawrence Gross and Shelly K. Gross is eerie and upsetting, and have that Romeo and Juliet effect to it: unquenching love, passion and death – on the same day. These two perhaps will be buried on the same plot, and on the same day.
As unnerving as it is, some Diaspora Liberians are understandably nervous and extremely hesitant to travel to Liberia, because the damn place is unsafe to live or visit. Do you blame them?
It is so true that these deaths and other near-deaths can be traced to carbon monoxide poisoning. However, the real culprits are the ubiquitous presence of portable generators that blankets the City of Monrovia and other parts of the nation.
In a city or country with fewer supply of electricity to do anything, Liberians are bent on holding on to their portable generators to survive in their homes and businesses.
However, to protect their generators from the wandering and wicked eyes and hands of armed robbers, these Liberians prefer to rather keep their generators running in the house or in their bedrooms as they sleep, which is deadly.
Whenever tragedies of this magnitude from the same source hits a nation and its citizens, the people often expect to get a swift response from their nation’s political leadership, in terms of practical solutions that heals and remedies the problem.
In the Gross’ case and other cases, I have not heard any statement or solutions from the President of Liberia, the Ministry of Health or the Legislative branch of government to either regulate or educate the public about this national nightmare.
The government needs to seriously implement a national policy regarding the use of portable generators in a confined space away from humans. The policy must include educating the public about the danger of running a generator in the room when people are sleeping.
Public service announcements on the airwaves on a regular basis can be a Band-Aid to the problem, at least for now.
Not doing something about this national problem is insane and reckless, and the Sirleaf administration and the legislature cannot continue to ignore this national problem.