By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
The People of the Northern District of Port Loko have been cautioned to make assurances double sure that they strategise well enough not only to stop the spread of the virus, but to finally eradicate Ebola from the entire District. These were the precise words of the Chief Executive Officer for the National Ebola Response Centre –Retired Major Parlo Conteh .He was responding to a scope of presentation at the Conference Room of the Port Loko Branch Office for Plan Sierra Leone.
The meeting itself was necessitated by the recent outburst of the virus in a couple of Chiefdoms in the District. It started way back in May following the Mannie Curve case in the Magbema Chiefdom in the Kambia District where a sickly woman was picked by her children and conveyed to Water Street in the Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom. She eventually passed away after a few days. Today, over 20 People have lost their lives to the virus while several hundreds more have become either contacted or eventually infected with it.
This has caused a huge embarrassment not the District and a total setback to the entire Nation. All Paramount Chiefs and other key stakeholders including the Head of the Command and Centre and the District Coordinator for the Ebola Response Centre in Port Loko were arranged before His Excellency –President Earnest Bai Koroma. The message is that they should now end the spread of the virus or face his wrath. They came back and developed the proposal that was presented to the Chief Executive Officer as you would see in this despatch.
It was nearly a 2 hour presentation which comprised of the Mission and Key Objectives of the Operation, its Intent, Current Situation, Effects, Security Plan and Timeline, that was respectively done by Dr. Collins of WHO, Joy of UNICEF, Dan of CDC and Colonel Harleston of the Republic of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces [RSLAF].As outlined by the District Coordinator of the Ebola Response Centre in Port Loko –Hon. Raymond Kabia, it is code named ‘Operation Northern Push’ and is geared toward the identification, containment and the eventual eradication of Ebola from infected areas and communicate with the wider community, in a bid to avert further spread.
According to the Manager of the Ebola Command and Control Centre in Port Loko- Mick Robson who doubled as District Adviser, the Operation is segmented into a total of 8 points ranging from the deployment of a forward Incident Control Point [ICP], to Event Areas, as well as the engagement and coordination of Local Taskforces and other Stakeholders through what was referred to as ‘increase tempo of surveillance in targeted chiefdoms. He said the intent in all of these is based on 3 Effects that have to do with the identification of all suspect cases, runners from quarantined homes and illegal burials.
The Presenters said the overarching activities under the communication messages are the engagement with Leaders, the fortification of Screening Check Points, improve Surveillance, enhance Cross Border Coordination, communicate and implement Curfew Restrictions. They therefore requested the Chief Executive Officer for NERC to approve Policy change on Pre Line Listing and for UNICEF to recruit 1,500 additional Social Mobilisation Staff so as to reinforce all areas of response. Apart from the increase in salary, the People of Port Loko further required the CEO to ensure that food to quarantined homes is increased by 25 percent.
In the words of the Retired Major Parlo Conteh, Port Loko always has very impressive plans with a corresponding problem of implementing those plans. He said the inability to implement such plans has resulted to what can be described as ‘holding the rest of the country to ransom’. He cited the prevailing situation in which almost all the other Districts have now gone months without any new case of Ebola. The Chief Executive Officer said he was particularly impressed with the Operational Reform on Security and the measures to be adopted on Quarantine Homes .He said Members of the District Ebola Response Centre should be mindful of the fact that the fight is theirs, and that they must take the lead as NERC would only come to play a supportive role.
The Chief Executive Officer said all Ministers of Government together with Members of Parliament particularly those that hail from Kambia and Port Loko have been mandated by President Koroma to relocate to their respective Districts to join the Operation Northern Push. Retired Major Parlo Conteh ordered the District Coordinator to report to him directly, for anyone who fails to show up in his or her District of origin for the subsequent attention of President Ernest Bai Koroma. He assured the gathering that Government and NERC would continue to provide the required support and maintained the fervent that the People of Port Loko would do all it takes to end Ebola in their District.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Officer –Dr. Briama Kargbo, disclosed plans to deploy a battery of top ranking Medical Practitioners to the Districts of Port Loko and Kambia. He said these Teams of Professionals, would be there to complement the efforts of the Medical Officers in the aforementioned Districts. The Chief Medical Officer went further to explain how such arrangements have nothing to do with torpedoing the official functions of the Resident Health Service Givers; rather they would be there to supervise the activities at the various Peripheral Health Units. He said the essence is to ensure that the Standard Operation Procedures [SOP] are strictly adhered. He maintained that their presence will be able to enhance Quality Contact Tracing
The photos below will help you to have a proper look at what transpired there at that extra ordinary meeting which saw almost all the big Vons from NERC in attendance. ….