By Mustapha Wai
The Sierra Leone Diaspora prayer teleconference vigil held today, August 2, 2014 was a success beyond expectation. Over 375 callers from all over the world including USA, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and even Sierra Leone, joined the call.
I would like to extend special thanks to our religious leaders who led us in prayers. They include: Fr. Johannes George, Rev. Wilfred Kabs Kanu, Rev. James Kabangai, Alhaji Alie Sesay, Sheik Mohamed Janneh, and Sheik Mustapha Konneh. I also want to commend my co-organizers; Mr. Salu Saidu (aka Spako) and Mr. Jesmed Suma for their selfless contribution in making the event a success. Without these two gentlemen, the event could not have turned out the way it did.
I also want to thank our social media supporters, including Mr. Francis Garrick, Rev. Wilfred Kabs Kanu, and all others who shared our post and helped to spread the word. And finally, I want to thank our callers including those silent listeners and the few vocal ones who made recommendations, comments and asked questions. Evidently, we all learned a lot from each other regarding the Ebola crisis as a result of the information we shared and the discussions we had. More remarkable about the gathering is that present, were Sierra Leoneans from different regions, religions, tribes, political parties, and demography; all engaged in a discussion with a common purpose.
The prayer session which was marked by the reciting of Quantic verses and Bible scriptures, echoed by prayers calling for the Almighty God’s intervention to end Ebola in Sierra Leone and the sub-region, lasted for about an hour. This was followed by another hour of presentation, and questions and answers session which proved be probing, informative and educating. The conference line was opened during the questions and answers session and attendees were allowed to comment and/or ask questions. The general takeaway from the questions and answers session surrounds the following themes:
1. Identification of credible organizations where volunteers can donate medical supplies and/or cash
2. The need for all Sierra Leoneans to come together as one people, united in the fight to defeat Ebola
3. The importance of sending a trusted and consistent message in the awareness campaign against Ebola including the need to address the myths and conspiracy theories being circulating about the origin, diagnosis and treatment for Ebola
4. The need for the government (i.e. Ministry of Health) to lend credibility to the number of Ebola cases being reported by throwing light on the “unaccounted-for” confirmed Ebola cases as reported on their Facebook page; and also answer questions that Sierra Leoneans have about the Ebola crisis management
5. The need for government and medical practitioners to be more effective in and transparent about the Ebola crisis management life-cycle which includes identification of suspected cases, tracing of contacts, collection of blood samples, caring for suspected Ebola cases holding centers, testing of blood samples, movement of Ebola positive patients to isolated treatment centers, treatment and care for Ebola patients, burial of deceased Ebola patients, discharge of survivors, and counseling of the emotionally affected
a. Attendees suggest that plans be in place at holding centers to care for Ebola suspects beyond just medical and to include feeding and security while they wait for their Ebola testing results
b. Attendees were concerned about possible misdiagnosis of other common diseases like Cholera, malaria, typhoid fever, Diarrhea, many of which have symptoms similar to Ebola which will result in exposing people with curable diseases to contagious Ebola patients at Ebola isolation treatment centers
c. Attendees suggested that to avoid the risk of exposing more people to Ebola why government and medical practitioners consider opening treatment centers in districts with infected cases as opposed to waiting for days for an ambulance to transport patients to Kenema or Kailahun
6. A recommendation for government to provide attractive compensation package for nurses and other medical practitioners who are at the forefront of the Ebola fight, as well as benefit packages for the survivors of nurses and other medical practitioners who die of Ebola as a result of their work
While we attempted to address some of the questions, there are those questions and recommendations that we would like to pass on to the appropriate authorities and parties. And as a result of the success of the teleconference, suggestions have been made that such meetings should continue periodically from now on. We have therefore decided to keep this event ongoing so that we can provide a global forum where, among others, updates can be shared on the Ebola outbreak, government and medical practitioners can educate the public and answer questions, donors can get answers regarding where to channel cash donations and medical supplies, and a congregation where we can continue to pray for God’s intervention to bring this Ebola crisis to an end. So, for those who were unable to join us today, you have plenty of time to be part of our future dialogues. Out of the need to be part of the solution to the Ebola crisis from afar, the Sierra Leone Diaspora Ebola awareness forum is borne. Long live Sierra Leone and death to Ebola!
We will bring you the audio transcript of the Ebola prayer vigil shortly.