By Jonathan Abass Kamara
Sierra Leoneans on Saturday November 7, 2015 at home and abroad sky-rocketed their hands, shouting Alleluia! When WHO, Dr. Anders Nordstrom, Country Representative declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone at the jam-packed Bintumani Conference hall in Freetown.
In the streets of Freetown taxi, poda-poda, okada riders and private vehicles where seen jubilating, hooting their horns, trumpeting with optimism the end of the outbreak.
The country since then starts enjoying the road to the New Phase of 90 days until when an unexpected new case of Ebola was announced early January 2016. The case believed to have emerged from the Kambia district and identified in Magburaka in the Tonkolili district scaled up to a point of mistrust, confusion and very challenging in some quarters and within communities in the two districts: Tonkolili and Kambia, and by some honourable politicians from the said districts. The recent Kambia crisis on Tuesday January 26, 2016 and that of Magburaka indicated mistrust which now calls for another strategy to ensure a resilient zero. The confrontation between the Bamoi Luma Trade Fair Business men and women and some angry youths and the police in kambia with incidence of arson, injuries, live gun shots, canisters and arrest, may not be unconnected with ignorance, mistrust that mounted to violence.
Declaring the end of the outbreak in the Bintumani conference hall last November 2015, WHO Anders Nordstrom reminded Sierra Leoneans that we recorded the first Ebola case on May 24, 2014, with a total number of 8,704 infected and 3,589 deaths. Those who tragically lost their lives, 221 of them were health care workers. But most importantly, Nordstorm described the new 90 days phase as critical which calls for strategic surveillance running into February 5, 2016, stressing the need to ensure a resilient zero with a view to responding to any potential Ebola flare ups and threats.
“The world had never faced an Ebola outbreak of this scale and magnitude, and the world has neither seen a nation mobilizing its people and resources as Sierra Leone did, the power of the people of Sierra Leone is the reason why we could put an end to this outbreak today” Andrews Nordstrom told the world.
The Ebola history is a forward-backward- forward- virus threat but we need to maintain the trust we had in the health system, its rapid response teams and current strong community involvement. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Office of the National Security (ONS), the Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Ministry and Partners, local and international partners still maintain the power built on the existing foundation. Mistrust would not help us consolidate the gains of the existing systems to manage future risks
Remember the outbreak has devastated families, the health system, the fast growing economy and social structures. All need to recover and heal. Together we fight is the answer.
As I sympathize with victims of the unfortunate situation of the recent Bamoi- Luma, Kambia crisis, the police, and Civilians, including line – listed quarantined homes and patients at the 34 Treatment centre, it is a concern to say, we now have a unique opportunity to restore hope and despair in the health system and to support the Ministry of Health and the government to kick Ebola once and for all. The whistle is blown and the battle is won”.