By Tony Bee, Sydney, Australia
Africans in Australia are very disturbed, traumatised and depressed for what is currently taking place in their continent, especially in West Africa. Therefore, to demonstrate their concerns about the sad Ebola crisis situation in West Africa, they decided to organise a unique historic summit that was well attended by Africans from different communities, mainstream Australian community organisations’ stakeholders, including public healthcare stakeholders, Red Cross, philanthropies and professors from different Australia universities.
The summit took place on the 12th of December 2014, in one of the universities’ campuses, 15 Broad Street, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Sydney. The summit commenced at 9:00am to 4:30pm, Australian time. The MCs for the summit were, Mr. Sam Mbakwe, organising Secretary, Africa Australia Ebola Action Group (AAEAG) and Ms AJ Thomas, a young Sierra Leonean Lawyer, commonly called Iron Lady because of her hard work and love for her country, especially for her dedication and commitment to Ebola activities in Australia, including lobbying and advocating for Sierra Leone at the expense of her job.
Some of the purposes of the summit were to register their heavy hearts about the deadly disease activities in the continent to the Australian government and the Australian mainstream community stakeholders for their continue support and the effect the Ebola virus travelling visa ban has on many Africans and friends of Africans, particularly to the currently affected West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. To also appeal to the mainstream Australian community not to relent in giving more support to the affected countries, especially in terms of providing human resources, food support and medical assistant.
Dr. Vincent Ogu, the current Secretary General for Africa Australia Ebola Action Group (AAEA G) gave the key note address of the summit. In his welcoming address, he thanked all the different African communities and the mainstream Australian communities, especially the stakeholders, the different humanitarian organisations stakeholders and individual philanthropies that present. “On behalf of the hard working AAEAG members, I must extend my sincere thanks to all of you for putting aside your busy schedules to come and support us, because Friday is a very busy day towards weekend for Australians, for you to leave your daily business activities, especially your jobs to grace this wonderful historic occasion, it is a great scarify”, he said.
Dr. Vincent explained to members present the purpose of the summit. Among other things, he said that even if they might have already knew about the killer disease, Ebola crisis in the African continent but he would like to emphasis to them that the Ebola virus crisis issue in Africa should be a concerned for all stakeholders in the world because Ebola disease lives threating might not only stop in Africa. Therefore the disease crisis should be given the necessary attention it deserved so that it would not continue to spread all over the world he emphasised. “In view of that we need your continue support, particularly for the provision of human resources, food and medical support. Our people are currently dying in Africa, especially in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, they need your honest and sincere support to eradicate Ebola virus in the currently effected countries in West Africa, reiterated”.
The summit was divided into two sessions with different facilitators, the morning session and afternoon session. Among the various speakers during the morning session were Mr. Marshall Tuck, Public Health Practitioner, Red Cross, he spoke on the role of Red Crosse in Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, especially on it successes and challenges in the country, while Dr. Olayide Ogunsihi, of the University of Western Sydney spoke about the effect which the Ebola virus has in human lives and how it can devastate a whole nation.
During the afternoon session, there were many speakers and facilitators form various works of life, especially from interstates. Amongst such speakers and facilitators, were Ramond Bangura, Australia Africa Action Group (AAEAG), Gamanga Kenewa, AAEAG, Mark Menjor Salone Ebola Action Group Australia (SEAGA)-South Australia, Edward Solo, Federation of African Councils Association (FACA), they spoke on Ebola Crisis and the impact on African communities in Australia families and their relatives in Africa, Dr. Mike Kamara, a Sierra Leonean born Registrar, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, spoke on the health system, government and aid and agencies response in the country, Mr. Laurie Facer, CEO, Bo Children’s Hospital Foundation Sydney, he spoke on international Ebola aid to Africa; towards a sustainable development approach. He highlighted some of the differences between dealing with Sierra Leone local organisations in the country and government, based on his personal experience. Mr. Edward Solo, President Federation of African Councils Association (FACA) spoke on the role of African- Australians in Diaspora community in connection with leadership issue, A/Professor Stephen Corbett, Director Centre for Public Health, he spoke on Ebola visa ban by the government of Australia; what evidence from infectious diseases control has.” It can be scientifically contested” he, said. And some of the facilitators were Anne Bunde-Birouste, Melvin Hachuma, Secretary Australian Professional Association (APA) and Mrs Dr. Nuli Lemoh.
Towards the end of the summit, members were further divided into groups for discussions and some of the outcome of the groups’ discussions include the poor relationship between the African governments and African communities in diaspora, political differences, lobbying to the Australian government for the lifting of Ebola travelling visa ban and to give more human resources support to the currently Ebola disease affected countries, international humanitarian organisations/charitable organisations and individual philanthropies for more support to Africa, especially the currently affected countries in West Africa, to liaising with the African governments , to provide more educational support particularly scholarships for overseas African students, healthcare support, food support and the engaging of the Australia government to create medium that would sensitise the Australians to stop stigmatising Africans in Australia in connection with Ebola virus issue and others coming from Africa, particularly West Africa.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr. James Addo, the current Chairman of Africa Australia Ebola Action Group (AAEAG). He thanked all present and admonished his fellow Africans not to relent in finding ways and means of helping the suffering brothers and sisters in African, particular in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. “We should not always depend on criticising our governments day and night; especially the leaders, but we should also give our support to them because of our suffering people in the continent. Sometimes before you criticise someone, ask yourselves what I have done for my country towards its development”, he concluded.