HEALTH workers carrying thermometers and sanitisers have manned polling stations across Liberia as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticised for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.
A total of 1.9 million voters are registered to participate in 15 Senate races throughout the country contested by 139 candidates. But Jerome Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission, yesterday said turnout had been low.
Originally scheduled for October, the vote was pushed back to last Tuesday as Liberia struggled to contain the Ebola epidemic, which has killed nearly 3300 people in the country. Officials then pushed it back four more days.
The disease appears to have slowed in recent weeks in Liberia, though critics questioned whether the vote could be conducted safely and credibly.
The three countries hit hardest by Ebola — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — have now recorded 7373 deaths, up from 6900 on Wednesday, the World Health Organisation said at the weekend. Many of the latest deaths occurred in Sierra Leone.
Liberian officials vowed to distribute 4700 thermometers and 10,000 bottles of sanitiser to polling stations.
On a visit to Liberia over the weekend, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged voters to follow health guidelines “to protect yourself and your loved ones” from the disease, which is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of sick people.
“This election will give Liberia and its people an opportunity to show the world how far it has come,” Mr Ban said.