By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
This was the theme of the message of His Excellency –President Ernest Bai Koroma to the People of the Northern District of Port Loko where his tour of the Regions for last week ended. You may need to know that President Koroma is so much perturbed by the manner in which the Country is being ravaged by the Ebola virus that he has now made it a routine to go on an assessment tour. This is in a bid to arm his Government with every happening on Ebola and to enable him apply the required solutions that will stop the transmission and entrench strategies for enhancing the eventual eradication of the virus from the country and the entire Region.
In Port Loko, President Koroma described the visit as a follow up to his previous trip about three weeks ago during which Paramount Chiefs and other Stakeholders were tasked with measures that will ensure the scaling down of Ebola related cases in their respective Chiefdoms. The President therefore returned to Port Loko last Sunday to know the level of compliance of Paramount Chiefs and other pertinent bodies on the dos and don’ts in the Ebola fight, and for them to jointly forge ahead with workable solutions.
Dr. Adikali Alpha Kamara is the District Medical Officer in Port Loko and was the first to account. He informed the President about the restructured systems that have been put in place with the help of a team of consultants from Kenema and how that has immensely enhanced the effectiveness of all the Pillars particularly the Burial, Surveillance and Tracing Teams .He said they now enjoy full cooperation of the National Response Team through the Command and Control Centre that is being Manned by a combine Team of Military Personnel. He said the District which has recruited a total of 17 Burial Teams, cannot only boast of about 17 Ambulances, but has also been able Set up several Holding Centres, and established Burial Sites for Ebola related Corpses in several parts of the District.
Apart from the Laboratory and Treatment Centres that would be shortly opened, Dr. Kamara said the issue of insufficient Personal Protective Equipments, Medical Personnel at the various Health Centres and the Delay in Payment of Incentives were some of the challenges they were confronted with.
In his submission, the Coordinator of the Ebola Response Committee in Port Loko District –Hon. Raymond Kabia said the objective for the establishment of a Coordination Office in the District is to get rid of Ebola by the end of December 2014. He informed the President about the Bottom / Top Approach which has led to the formation of Village Ebola Enforcement Teams [VEET] and Chiefdoms Leadership Teams [CLT] in all the 11 Chiefdoms of the District. He said there has been an improved spirit of Teamwork especially in ensuring that there is timely supply of Food to Quarantined Homes. He was buttressed by the Port Loko District Council Chairman-Ahmid Munirr Fofana who said Councillors were not only actively involved in the Fight, but were also keeping what he referred to as ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ in collaboration with Ward Committee Members. He said they were also maintaining a data base with the cooperation of Paramount Chiefs and Members of Parliament in the District.
The report of the Members of Parliament was delivered by Hon. Ibrahim Bundu who is also the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. His Presentation was focused on Service Delivery with special interest on timeliness. He said Parliamentarians were thickly involved and always in the forefront of the fight, adding that they were now on a village to village sensitisation. He surfaced the case of the Health Workers at the 105 Peripheral Health Units in the District who have continued to perform their duty in the various Communities in spite of the risk involve, and how they have not been considered in terms of supply of Personal Protective Equipments.
He further spoke of the series of Non Government Organisations operating in the District and the bureaucracies that involved in their operations. He therefore appealed to the President for such bureaucracies to be curtailed in order to enhance effective service delivery.
You would agree with me that the Paramount Chiefs were in a far more precarious situation than any other category of Stakeholders. In fact most of them were not sure whether they were going to go home with their Staffs. The reason to this was obvious .For you who are yet to know, these Paramount Chiefs had earlier consented for their Staffs to be withdrawn should the President returns to Port Loko and discovers an uptrend of Ebola cases . As outlined by Paramount Chief Alhajie Kompa Bomboli of Koya, who is also the Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs in the District, they have done their home work. He said they had summoned several meetings to sensitise their subject on the dos and don’ts of the Ebola fight. He said emphasis had been laid on the suspension of all social gatherings, the termination of traditional and cultural practices and for all to adhere to the Bye Laws on Ebola.
The Paramount Chief said this has resulted to the discovery of so many sick persons and a number of corresponding challenges. He spotlighted the issue of Commercial Motor Bike Riders that are of the habit of transporting sick people from one place to the other, the influx of Ebola suspects from Chiefdoms out of the District, lack of Stationed Ambulances in certain Chiefdoms and the ultimate issue of space where those fished out of the communities as Ebola suspects. He was supported by his colleague Paramount Chief – Hon. Salu Lugbu of Burreh Kasseh Maconteh Chiefdom who disclosed that Task force Committees have as well been formed in all the Chiefdoms. He said the Bye Laws were now being enforced and that their subjects have refrained from the washing of dead bodies and secret burials.
A sigh of relief was deduced from the faces of Paramount Chiefs when President Koroma said their efforts have been reasonable enough since his previous visit to the District. He informed them about the massive support that has come from the International World. He however cautioned how none of that will make the fight winnable, if people do not comply with the dos and don’ts of the rules of engagement. The President spoke on the huge set back the virus has caused the Nation and how it has brought every other development activity to a standstill. He cited the 2015 Budget that was recently read and how it is based on the speculations that the virus is eradicated within a couple of weeks from now.
President Koroma therefore urged the Paramount Chiefs to implement the Bye Laws on Ebola without fear or favour, citing the case of his uncle that has been penalised in Bombali when he failed to comply. He noted that the Command and Control Centre has greatly enhanced the efficiency of the Burial Teams He however stressed the need for the Administrative wing of the Ebola Emergency Response Committee to proper coordinate the various Pillars so as to enhance effective service delivery. He said they should all work at the same wave length to ensure that None Government Organisations listen and comply to the various Communities that are in need. You can now have a look at some Photos marking the occasion……