|SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 By Oswald Hanciles
“From Friday September 19 to Sunday September 21, 2014, we all answered to the call to stay at home for the Ebola Ose-to-Ose Campaign. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans volunteered to pass on the messages …. Thousands of health workers, from doctors to nurses, lab technicians, hygienists, burial teams and others showed great commitment ….. Hundreds of journalists throughout the country, coordinated by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and IRN…..It was indeed an impressive effort….Sierra Leoneans once again demonstrated their collective ability to rise up to the occasion….”: His Excellency the President; Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; September 24, 2014, in a nation-wide broadcast.
In a speech before the lockdown, President Ernest Bai Koroma had said “the survival and dignity of each and every Sierra Leonean” was at stake. Survival and dignity galvanized collective resolve of Sierra Leoneans that yielded only “success”!!
Aggressive!! Survival! Dignity!! Awesome!!!
Jarrah Kawusu-Konte posted in his FACEBOOK page on 21/09/2014 that “The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) ….has reached a conclusion that more than 75% of its intended target of reaching 1.5 million households.”
Global media – i.e.: CNN, VOA, Al Jazeera, The Guardian – reported that it was ‘one of the “most aggressive” containment strategies to be employed so far ; and, reported on how Sierra Leoneans “celebrated” its conclusion…’
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, told AFP: “Although this campaign has ended, there is a possibility we would have a similar one some other time.”
Stephen Gaojia, head of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that leads the national Ebola response, said ….. “Even though the exercise has been a huge success so far, it has not been concluded in some metropolitan cities like Freetown and Kenema…” (Sourcehttp://time.com/3417907/ebola-sierra-leone-lockdown/)
Roland Turay posted on his FB page that “Sierra Leone is an awesome, an irrepressible, and a resilient NATION. We have survived a brutal war that killed over 50,000 Sierra Leoneans, and we shall survive once again….”
In the spirit of the above encomium, I posted on my FB page thus: “I join patriotic Sierra Leoneans to congratulate the EOC, the police and military, and thousands of volunteers who were part of a team to educate the public about an ever-evasive Ebola Enemy for the 75% victory. It has been one of the greatest feats…. in any developing country (ours was also a form of de-shackling phenomenon of NOT listening to one of the main international organizations involved with the Ebola War, medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontieres, which had warned that the lockdown could lead people to conceal a Ebocases) in trying to checkmate a health phenomenon (I am not aware of any other country in a developing country that has tried such a strategy over the past 100 years or so!!!). Nonetheless, I daresay that in the ‘Ebola Exam’, even 99% is failure. Only 100% is a pass mark”.
Ebola does not respect propaganda
Nonconformist super-intellectual, Dr. Omodele Jones, in his cyber group, The Inclusive National Conversation (TINC Sierra Leone), refused to be eddied into the vortex of national self-congratulation; he writes: “Ebola does not respect propaganda. It only respects results. It moves fast and demands maximum effectiveness in the choice of attack strategy. I have been bewildered at the shouts of success of the lock down. One feels forced to join the applauding crowd and almost unpatriotic to use one’s analytical skills to ask questions…”
Along the same line of Dr. Omodele Jones, Sierra Network Salone warns: “…. do not let anyone deceive you into believing that Ebola is gone… (It) came to our attention that some people were shouting this morning that Ebola is gone and thanking Jesus….”
New York Times’ Nossiter writes on ‘under-reporting of Ebola deaths’
New York Times’ Adam Nossiter (Fresh Graves Point to Undercount of Ebola Toll; By ADAM NOSSITER SEPT. 22nd September, 2014; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/world/africa/23ebola.html?_r=0)strives for journalistic objective thus:“….Since the beginning of the outbreak more than six months ago, the Sierra Leone Health Ministry reported only 10 confirmed Ebola deaths here in Freetown, the capital of more than one million people, and its suburbs as of Sunday — a hopeful sign that this city, unlike the capital of neighboring Liberia, had been relatively spared the ravages of the outbreak…..
Nossiter writes: “…..But the bodies pouring in to the graveyard tell a different story. In the last eight days alone, 110 Ebola victims have been buried at King Tom Cemetery, according to the supervisor, Abdul Rahman Parker, suggesting an outbreak that is much more deadly than either the government or international health officials have announced……
Nossiter writes: “I’m working with the burial team, and the first question I ask them is, ‘Are they Ebola-positive?’ ” said Mr. Parker, adding that the figures were based on medical certificates that he had seen himself. The deaths are carefully recorded by name and date in a notebook headed ‘Ebola Burials…’
Nossiter writes: “A burial team supervisor who drove up with fresh bodies echoed Mr. Parker’s assertion. “Anybody we collect is a positive case,” said Sorie Kessebeh. “All the bodies that we are bringing in are positive.”
Commenting on the New York Times’ journalist’s story, Sierra Leone’s former ambassador to the US, Attorney John Leigh, wrote on his FACEBOOK page thus: “… I am one of those who share the belief of both W.H.O. and the C.D.C. that the reported Ebola incidence in Sierra Leone is grossly understated. However, I believe that this understated count is due mostly to under-capacity and not fraudulent reporting… I have seen reports that two ‘road transport hub’ towns: Moyamba Junction and Mile 91 (Yoni) are in lockdown with a whole slew of Ebola-exposure victims residing in them. A Dr. Blango, late father of Dr. Columba Blango, an SLPP kingpin, had treated an Ebola victim, then got infected and died. His widow reportedly then kept his corpse in-house for at least 5 days and, as is local custom, many big wigs in and around the area visited to sympathize with the family and view the body. Mrs. Blango and at least some children in the family house are reported to have contacted the dreaded virus”.
Fefegula’s ‘Ebola Story’ at 34 Military Barracks
During the ‘ose-to-ose’ campaign, I did investigative journalism too. With the guidance of B Trixx Film’s CEO, Jaime Yaya Barry, I got this story from Mike Foday Fefegula, the son of an Ebola victim at a house opposite the Wilberforce Military Barracks of the military of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Fefegula’s 60 year old mother, Nancy Sesay, died on Friday, 12the September, 2014; she was only diagnosed as having Ebola on Thursday, the 11th of September, 2014. Fefegula’s mother started falling seriously sick TWO WEEKS before she finally died. She had been a SECRETARY at the 34 Military Hospital for 32 years, right up to her time of death.
When Nancy Sesay fell sick, her family was taking care of her at home – thinking it was her ‘normal problem’ of acute hypertension, but, as her condition was not improving, they took her to the 34 Military Hospital of the Wilberforce Military Barracks where she was a staff. Fefegula’s mother was ‘treated’, and discharged on Monday, 8th September, 2014. Back home, Fefegula’s mother did not improve – so, she was rushed back to the hospital on Tuesday, 9th September, 2014. She was admitted in a private room.
These military doctors examined her, or, showed interest in her, since she was a staff: Dr. Vandy; Dr. Idriss; Dr. Rogers; Dr. Luseni. According to Fefegula, the nurses avoided her like a plague, because their suspicion had been aroused that Fefegula’s mother had the dreaded Ebola.
It was not until Thursday, September 11, 2014, that a military doctor assigned for Ebola cases, Lieutenant Dr. Jalloh, called Fefegula, and gave him the result of the diagnostic test of his mother – Ebola Positive. After her mother had been buried, one Sergeant Mansaray, who introduced himself as the ‘Disease Surveillance Officer’ of the Wilberforce Barracks, visited the house of Fefegula, and told them that the house would be quarantined; and, provisions would be made to feed them. As of the 2nd day of the Lockdown, Sgt Mansaray made only that single visit to the house; and no provisions had been made to feed Fefegula and his family of eight persons.
Liberia fears Ebola crisis will spark war
I have been posting on my FB page regular news updates on the Ebola situation in Liberia, which I would also send to the EOC. Read this shocker from a Liberian publication: “…. Liberian minister of information says Ebola is fast turning into a political nightmare as the sub-region heaves under unprecedented crisis…..The Liberian minister has warned the country may slip back to civil war along with neighbouring Sierra Leone if the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa is allowed to continue to spread….”As I have written in this Column about a dozen times now, the Ebola outbreak in the sub-region transcend just a ‘health problem’ – it is now clear that it the Ebola virus is not DEFEATED it could slowly squeeze the economic lifeblood out of especially Liberia and Sierra Leone, and as Minister Brown articulates, it could spark a WAR in the region again.
Not an end; but, the beginning of an end
There is hope in the urgency being given to the Ebola outbreak by the most powerful president in the world, U.S’ Barrack Obama. The US’ Charge d’Affaires in Freetown, Kathleen FitzGibbon, underlines not only that hope, but, also lauded the innovative stance of our country in its ose-to-ose campaign in these official words: “…the three-day stay-at-home was a ‘watershed moment’ whose momentum must be turned into specific activities to ensure that we can reach our goal of isolating 70% of positive cases to reverse the upward trend of the epidemic….The public needs to understand that this campaign did not end Ebola but can be the beginning of the end if everyone remains vigilant….”
Ebola Vigilance would mean intensification, and, ‘correct-ization’, or, ‘improve-ization’ of what we have done! We should forcefully have in mind that in the Ebola Exam, 99% is failure. Only 100% is a pass mark!!