By Abdul R. Bedor Kamara
As a robust measure to contain the ebola outbreak that has now taken a heavy toll in Bombali District, the Bombali Descendants Association (BDA) met with the Bombali District Ebola Task Force at the Makeni City Council Hall on Saturday 6th September, 2014 to present the resources they so far mobilized to support quarantine homes in in the district. That Saturday event was perhaps the biggest in that municipality since the ebola virus disease stormed the country. The mood of readiness for action was boldly written on the faces of descendants of Bombali who were taken by surprise as a result of the sudden surge of the epidemic in that part of the country. The event attracted a considerable number of senior state actors hailed from that part of the district such as cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, inspector general of police, as well as local government functionaries, traditional rulers, etc.
In his opening remarks, chairman of the event, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo offered his appreciation to the people of Bombali for their solidarity and coordinated approach in the fight against a common enemy that respects no individual whatsoever. He emphasized the fact that holding such a grand even in the municipality of Makeni does not in any way suggest that the initiative is confined therein, rather subsequent events would be extended in the four corners of the district. He shed light on the bright steps taken by President Koroma to declare a state of public emergency with the setting up of a Presidential Task Force, Emergency Operation Centres and the coming onboard of every facet of the society to tackle the ebola epidemic. “It is time for action,” he told the people of Bombali and encouraged them to address the current situation with a spirit of cohesiveness. Hon. I.B Kargbo emphasized the good public relations the President has made to attract the international community. He rammed home the message that the “fight is neither political nor tribal, but one centered on saving the lives of Sierra Leoneans.” He called for a stay of traditional and cultural activities for the moment.
In his welcome addressing, Paramount Chief of Bombali Shebora Chiefdom, P.C. Bai Shebora Kassanga II thanked President Koroma through the Local Government Ministry for instituting by-laws as a measure to put control mechanisms in addressing the fight. He informed the audience that of the more than 90 villages in Bombali, only one village had been identified with an ebola incident, insisting that the problem is squarely Makeni which every day is increasing in size and number.
In his presentation, Bombali District Medical Officer, Dr. Tom Sesay, bemoaned that little appreciation had been shown to the sacrificial effort made by health workers and volunteers despite the well-crafted strategy the District Health Management Team (DHMT) had adopted to address the problems on the ground. He said that health officers are seriously antagonized by families of ebola victims amid a death toll of 14 health workers in the district. As he put it, the laboratory cases in the district had risen to an unbearably irreversible scale. Even though he was heartened by the government’s decision to increase the allowances of health workers and volunteers, and the ambulance, he also pleaded for a sustained support to the case management, burial, and surveillance teams in the district.
One key issue that was emphasized by most speakers in the event was the lack of coordination among stakeholders in the district. This from the outset did not go down well with the Mayor of Makeni, Madam Sunkari Kamara who had to point out that “this is not the time to make huge political capital but to work in oneness.” She asked that all donations be channeled through the councils for onward distribution. She was very passionate about seeing things go the right way as she threw lights on the numbers of structures the two councils in the district had set up to combat the disease.
AIG North, Mustapha Kamara appealed to the senses of the people in quarantined homes to cooperate with the police.
Representatives of a group called Civil Society Platform resident in Makeni, Boniface Sidikie Kamara and Stanley Bangura, pledged their group’s commitment in partnering with the councils and the DHMT in combating the disease. They disclosed that they had already mobilized more than 200 youth in Makeni as volunteers, and were on course to set up a toll free line as a channel of communication to relate incidences.
In his presentation of the 400 bags of rice, other condiments and 29 million leones, Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Abdul Ignosi Koroma, reiterated BDA’s firm commitment in working together with the Bombali District Task Force to kick the dreaded disease out of the district.
Two key prominent individuals that graced that occasion and were given the platform to talk were the APC Secretary General, Osman Foday Yassaneh and Minister of Finance Dr. Kelfala Marrah. Mr Yassaneh touched on the effort the APC party had so far made in complementing the work of government in the fight. This includes the dishing out of 4 vehicles to the presidential task force, 46,000 gloves, 40 hospital beds, and Victoria buckets to more than 30 market places through the Women’s Congress. Dr. Marah who on the other hand lamented that the ebola outbreak had diluted the efforts so far made in the Agenda for Prosperity, encouraged the Bombali people to borrow the examples of Koinadugu where up till yet no single case has cropped up. He also advised people of Bombali to now turn their district as a regular place of visit.
Other speakers in the event include APC Bombali District Chairman Ali Commoner Kargbo, Deputy Local Government Minister, Hadiru Kalokoh and Bombali District Council Chairman, Shangai Koroma.
Commissioner Saidu Turay of NATCOM is the Secretary of BDA