By Alhaji Jalloh :
His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in his recent speech to fellow citizens on the outbreak of the Ebola disease asked the entire nation to mourn with the families of “our national heroes including Dr. Sheik Umar Khan” who lost their lives battling the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
The President in his speech declared Monday 4th August, 2014, as a day to reflect on the Ebola outbreak and Sierra Leoneans who have lost their lives trying to contain the Ebola disease, including doctors, nurses, other health workers and a score of civilians. The President admitted that fighting and winning the battle against the deadly Ebola disease was beyond the scope of any one country or community. He also highlighted the efforts his Government has made to be in constant touch with world leaders and global partners to take on the challenges towards fighting the deadly disease.
As a patriotic leader, President Koroma has in his renewed efforts to tackle the menace once and for all partnered with international development partners to continue mobilizing and deploying resources and expertise from both within and without to intensify the fight against the disease and to eradicate it in the three Mano River Union (MRU) States of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where over 1,000 cases of Ebola have been reportedly confirmed. President Koroma recently met the leaders of the aforementioned countries and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director General, Margaret Chan in Conakry – Guinea to brainstorm on sub-regional strategies that would defeat the disease taking its toll on human lives in the three MRU States.
Even as I write, the President’s renewed efforts towards eliminating the Ebola disease from Sierra Leone in its entirety have yielded much dividend. In their massive response plan to the Ebola disease threatening the lives of Sierra Leoneans, Guineans and Liberians, the Director General of WHO and ECOWAS Heads of State recently announced a joint US$100 million anti-Ebola response plan. The EU also recently announced that it has allocated 2 million Euros through the World Health Organization, Doctors without Borders (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross to fight the Ebola disease in the three countries.
Sierra Leone’s President, his Vice President and Ministers also sacrificed part of their salaries recently towards the fight against the deadly virus. In addition, various business institutions, organizations and individuals have contributed hundreds of millions of Leones towards the common fight against the menace. Even politicians from various political parties in the country, including the governing All People’s Congress (APC) and the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), have sacrificed resources, time and energy towards sensitizing their constituents on the contagion. I’m told they have been extremely busy criss-crossing the country by air and land on the sensitization exercise that has gathered serious momentum in the country.
Initially, there had been the problem of having many unbelieving Thomases who had argued that the virus did not exist in Sierra Leone and that the ‘false alarm’ had been raised by the Government in order to access external funding. With all the early warning and the increased surveillance about the devastating Ebola virus, many Sierra Leoneans were obstinate in accepting the fact that the Ebola disease was real until President Koroma declared a day of national reflection for our national heroes who lost their lives battling the Ebola outbreak in our country.
People with suspected Ebola infection had flouted publicized regulations and thus put sometimes entire households at risk especially in the eastern region of Sierra Leone where the outbreak of the infection started. There are also reports that some people in the Ebola affected areas have deserted their homes to live in their farms or forest in order to escape from health workers looking out for people with frank or suspected infection. The people exhibiting such behavior still hold the view that Ebola does not exist and that the preventive treatments for the infections are deliberately meant to kill unsuspected people in that part of the country. What hogwash?
But thank God Sierra Leone is blessed with having a patriotic leader whose humanistic efforts towards tackling the menace have gathered both national and international momentum which most Sierra Leoneans have come to appreciate. The President is moving back and forth and doing everything humanly possible to ensure his people do not cohabit with the deadly Ebola. One of the robust and intensive strategies towards eliminating Ebola from Sierra Leone is President Koroma’s recent declaration of Public State of Emergency to ensure there is no unlawful gathering in the country. This has discouraged the youth who form the bulk of the Sierra Leone population from hanging out in nightclubs, sport centers, bars, and other entertainment centers that attract population in order to avoid body contacts or handshake as a preventive measure.
Though many critics have criticized the Public State of Emergency for economic and social reasons, I believe President Koroma has done the right thing in order to avoid the spread of the infection in the country. Every well-meaning Sierra Leonean who has concern for his/her country must hearken to the clarion call by the president to abide by his declaration of the state of emergency put in place in the fight against the scourge. It has no political undertone; but rather a genuine, patriotic effort by the President and his government to save the lives of Sierra Leoneans from the deadly Ebola disease.
With all the trepidation among Sierra Leoneans over the outbreak of the deadly infection in our country, let us hope and pray that with the massive efforts our government and its development partners are making towards the fight against the virus, the menace will soon come to past so that President Koroma will continue focusing on his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ that aims at cushioning the economic hardship of every Sierra Leonean. May God protect all of us by expunging the scourge from our beloved country.