By Sahr Morris Jnr.
The inaugural edition of the Airtel Rising Stars gala dinner last Friday sprung surprises as it raised the sum of Le400 million towards the fight against the Ebola virus in the country.
The gala dinner, which was hosted at the newly opened Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko Hotel, attracted several top government officials as well as members of the business and private sectors who all made donations towards the Ebola fight.
Managing Director of Airtel, Sudipto Chowdhury, said the fight against the deadly virus is a national concern and that as a company, they are committed to help the Ministry of Health and Sanitation combat the outbreak.
He said as a mobile phone company, they are touching the lives of millions of Sierra Leoneans whose safety and good health they cherish; the reason why they will continue to support the government to curb the further spread of the virus in the country.
According to Mr. Chowdhury, Airtel Sierra Leone donated Le70 million whilst the Airtel Bharti International – through its International CEO, Manoj Kohli – donated Le100 million. There were other donations made, notable were those by businessmen Basma & Balani who gave Le50 million each.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo, said she was surprised by the commitment of Airtel to the fight against Ebola, adding that as a ministry they are grateful for the effort by the telecom outfit and all those who are contributing in their own way towards containing the deadly virus.
In his keynote address, Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana said “the transformation of Airtel today shows the company’s ability to honour its corporate social responsibility – making steadfast progress in that direction more especially at a time when the country is experiencing the dreadful Ebola outbreak”.
He congratulated the staff of the company for sacrificing their monthly salaries to the tune of Le70 million to donate to the fight against the epidemic, adding that Airtel is not only supporting the development of youth football but also the plight of residents in Kailahun and Kenema.
This is not the first gesture the mobile telecom company has made towards the fight against the virus as in early June they collaborated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to donate 150 mobile phones to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and also joined the All Works of Life Development Organisation (AWOL) to embark on a one-month massive sensitization of children across the country on the Ebola virus.