By Alhaji Jalloh :
As a patriotic Sierra Leonean who cares for his country and compatriots, my heart bleeds whenever I think of the devastating effects of the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in my country.
Though I’m far away from home, I always empathize with my government and people for what they are going through since the epidemic struck in May this year from neigbouring Guinea where the outbreak started since February this year.
It is on record that the first Ebola victim in Sierra Leone contracted the virus in Guinea and returned to Kailahun District where the epidemic started ravaging the lives of meaningful Sierra Leoneans; among them were the brave healthcare workers at the frontline who had sacrificed to save their people from the menacing virus but could not live to tell the story.
At first, the outbreak of the EVD had many connotations, but the ravaging of lives and the devastation of the country’s economy by the epidemic were enough to convince Sierra Leoneans that indeed Ebola was real; though there are still some recalcitrant compatriots who are still denying that it is not real. The government of His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has been very busy trying to mobilize international response to stop the deadly disease from spreading.
The British government, the Chinese, Canadians, Americans, Cubans, Ethiopians and other nationals are all in Sierra Leone helping our government to eradicate the virus from our country so that Sierra Leoneans can start their normal lives once again. We should be very thankful for that as a nation because; as our President said from the beginning of the outbreak, Sierra Leone alone cannot succeed in containing the virus without the support of the international community. He pleaded to them to intervene before the situation get worst, and being one of the responsible leaders in Africa and even beyond, the international community intervened and we have started seeing some progress with the construction of more holding and treatment centers across the country to respond to Ebola cases.
Though cases of Ebola are still reported on a daily basis, there is ray of hope because some districts have had no new cases for the past few weeks or so. This achievement should be attributed to the President whose efforts has left no stone unturned in bringing Sierra Leoneans and the international community on board to fight the virus – a move that has been very appreciative and courageous. From what we are seeing on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) and reading in the newspapers, the President is very much determined to see that the virus is eradicated from our country as quickly as possible; especially when the outbreak is retrogressing the gains made under his Agenda for Change.
Very recently, I attended the 10th Session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM) in Iran, where 56 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had gathered to deliberate on issues affecting them. A good number of Ministers and Diplomats attended the conference. I took note of many of the issues that were deliberated on by the attendees but not much was discussed about the outbreak of the EVD in West Africa with three countries hardest hit by the virus.
Since my people in Sierra Leone are suffering and dying of the outbreak of the deadly epidemic, I deemed it necessary to make my own contribution to ending the virus in my country. I didn’t wait for the conference to end when I started engaging the media to tell the story of how Sierra Leone needs the help of the Arab world in eliminating the EVD from our country. I made it very clear to them that there was need for them to aid the Ebola fight in Sierra Leone.
I had interviews with many Newspapers, Radio and Television stations, including Press TV, Iran’s first international news network, the Beirut based Al-Manar TV, Dubai based Al Sharqiya News TV, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Tehran Times, among other credible media houses. I told the Arab world that the government of Sierra Leone has made relentless efforts in fighting the Ebola outbreak, but still needs their support to ending the killer disease once and for all. I also told them about the impact of the outbreak on our economy and how it has taken its toll on human lives. I told them about how over 1,700 souls have perished between May and November this year, including health workers, vulnerable women and children, able bodied men who comprised the workforce and other prominent citizens.
I also dilated on the challenges faced by our government in containing the deadly disease. I told them that we need additional ambulances to service the nationwide network of treatment centers and community Ebola care units and more motor bikes for contact tracers and 4WD utility vehicles for supervisors, surveillance officers and burial teams and even helicopters to reach suspected Ebola patients in areas that are not easily accessible.
I also stressed that the need for more Labs, especially mobile Labs that could be moved to hotspots of new infections to get quick results and removal of persons to treatment centers. “We need PPEs, IV fluids, anti-bodies for super imposed infections, vitamins and other essential medical equipment,” I said to reporters.
Before the interview ended, I also reiterated to the members of the Fourth Estate that money is required to pay the health workers; as government is finically over stretched at this difficult time in our country and money to train new ones that would be deployed; money to buy food for quarantined homes and other basic supplies and logistics.
A female journalist wept when I talked about how the Ebola outbreak is devastating children, women and communities. I told them that we need psychosocial support in some of these areas; orphans would need care, widows require support, and survivors need help with meeting the challenges of stigmatization.
I made sure that I was very calm and diplomatic in putting our case across to the Arab world in order to gain sympathy so that more Arab countries will get involved in the Ebola fight.
A few days after my engagement with the media in Iran and the relentless efforts of the Ambassadors and Officers of the Sierra Leone Embassies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and the newly established one in the UAE, I realized that the issue of Ebola has become a topical issue. Our nationals in the Gulf States are also offering fervent and heartfelt supplications to save their beloved country from the dangers of the scourge. Many Arabs have started empathizing with our people for the ugly situation they are going through right now.
Though Saudi Arabia, Kuwait as members of the OIC have made their own contributions to the fight against the EVD in Sierra Leone, Guineas and Liberia, I’m sure other members will soon come on board as our country has been very friendly to the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia where I’m serving in the Sierra Leone Embassy as Press Attaché.
As I write, my heart is blood drenched with the pains my people are going through in Sierra Leone. But in the name Allah, we shall get over the Ebola disease and start our rebuilding process in the shortest possible time. May Allah continue to give the country’s leadership the wisdom and understanding to successfully end the menacing virus in our beloved country. Happy and Prosperous 2015 in advance to all Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad.