The Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (ABC) Secretariat has called on fourteen paramount chiefs of the Moyamba District to continue to be very passionate and committed in the containment of the Ebola epidemic that has claimed the lives of many Sierra Leoneans.
Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas
This call was made by the Executive Director of the Secretariat Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas during a two-day session for Paramount Chiefs in the district on experience sharing, identify gaps and adapt the best practices from other districts, which will be included in their structures in the fight against Ebola. The session was organised by a German based organisation called Welt Hunger Hilfe. The role model theory of in attitudinal and behavioural change practice was adopted.
The Executive Director of the ABC Secretariat disclosed that the Paramount Chiefs are respectable authorities in their chiefdoms. He noted that in some communities in certain chiefdoms the people did not know about other forms of state authorities but only know about their Paramount Chiefs. He said that if Paramount Chiefs are passionate about the fight against Ebola, they can influence positive attitude and behaviour towards the eradication of Ebola in their chiefdoms.
Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas told the cross section of Paramount Chiefs to take ownership of the fight and emulate the good examples of Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV of Magbemah Chiefdom in Kambia District who established additional bye laws to control the movements of okada riders and the influx of strangers in his chiefdom because the movements of people is aiding the spread of the disease from one place to another.
He said the ABC has taken the lead in the fight because health professionals and international partners have identified negative attitude such as the exhumation of corpses, washing of the dead and secret burial are now responsible for the spread of the virus in the country, and as the institution charged with the mandate to influence positive attitude and behaviour is calling for compliance to the preventive measures of Ebola through persuasive education.
The Chairman, Council of Paramount Chief for Moyamba District P.C. Foday Momoh Gulama of Kayamba Chiefdom pledged his commitment to the fight against this dreadful disease and promised to be very vigilant in the implementation of the bye-laws in order to contain the spread of the disease in the district by the end of January 2015.
Paramount Chief Momoh Gulama said that when the first Ebola case was reported in the district the denial syndrome was a big challenge to an extent that a nurse was intimidated in one of the villages and had to seek refuge in another community for the safety of her life. He said he was very proactive and summoned meetings with his fellow Paramount Chiefs and dialogue on the strategies on how to contain the spread of the disease.
”Customs and traditions are still creating threats in the fight against the Ebola disease in this part of the country” the Paramount Chief noted, adding that members of secret societies are still engaged in secret burials in some villages while some herbalists do have huts in the bushes where they heal engaged in native treatment, and wash corpses before they call the burial team for burial.
The P.C disclosed that they have planned a lot of strategies to curtail the spread of the disease such as house to house search for the sick and strangers, and the registration of the inhabitants of the chiefdoms, and the enforcement of permanent closure of bars and entertainment centres till the end of the Ebola scourge in the country.
The Chairman Council of Paramount Chiefs for the district praised the government for its strides in the fight against Ebola, ”the government has tried a lot, we have got a treatment center that will be open soon,” and that the government has given them funds so that they will fully engage their people because as traditional authorities their people have great respect for them.
The Provincial Security Coordinator, Office of the National Security (ONS) and Chairman, Kenema District Ebola Taskforce, Mr. Joseph Bunting-Graden noted that Paramount Chiefs and other traditional leaders are very central in the fight against Ebola in the country.
”We have come to a level when Ebola sensitization has been shifted to the Paramount Chiefs, so if we did not succeed from this point, then we don’t have any hope again ” he stressed. He added that when Ebola was reported Sierra Leone, the denial syndrome was a big challenge and that there was a Paramount Chief who was denying about the existence of Ebola but later accepted when his son died of Ebola.
Mr. Bunting-Grading said that the Paramount Chiefs are brought into the fight because they have enormous powers in their areas of authorities, citing that some chiefdom have created chiefdom taskforce, ”this is the time for us to decentralise this fight because everyone has to take it as his responsibility.”
The Secretariat also met with Pillar Heads of the Moyamba District Ebola Response Centre and also have customised meetings with officials and stakeholders of the district persuading them to be very vigilant in the fight to break the chain of Ebola transmission in their district and sensitized people about the need to follow the precautionary measure that heath experts and international partners have identified as best practices to break the chain of transmission.
Meanwhile, the ABC Secretariat also visited the newly constructed first class one hundred beds Moyamba Ebola Treatment Center funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and this centre would be operated by Medicos Del Mundo (Doctors of the World), an international health organisation with human rights perspective that seeks to promote equal health opportunity that was established in 1991 but started operations Sierra Leone in 2001.
A representative of the Medicos Del Mundo Dr. Joe Felix Hojo disclosed that international doctors will be operating in the centre and majority of the staff will be Sierra Leoneans, citing that they have already interviewed about two hundred health workers.
Some of the facilities of the treatment centre that the doctor disclosed include male and female wards, recovery room, mortuary and happy showers for refreshing survivors and a laboratory that will start operations by the end of December. ‘‘It is one of the best Ebola treatment centers in the country in terms of quality and safety operations which meets international standards” he assured.
By ABC Communications Unit