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Drivers’ Union prexy appeals to government

NOVEMBER 28, 2014

President of the Motor Drivers and General Transport Workers Union has said in Freetown that the media should help them plead with the government to increase the Ebola downtime for vehicles going to and from the provincial areas. He said presently there are checkpoints all over the road leading to the provinces and coming down to Freetown, and that these checkpoints are closed at 5:00pm and opened at 9:00am for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Mr. Alpha A. Bah explained that when these checkpoints are closed so early it creates a situation where overcrowding occurs, and that the possibility of Ebola transmission is high.

“At times there are up to 100 vehicles and over 300 people including women and children at one of the major checkpoints. In situations like this where toilet facility is zero, what do we expect to happen?” he asked, stressing that “we should not forget body fluids are the surest means of Ebola transmission and if we expect a break in transmission we should not expose people to circumstances where they stand the chance of getting infected”.

The Drivers Union president made this appeal during an SLRTA road safety and Ebola sensitization campaign at the offices of the union at the Central Lorry Park, Clay Factory in the east of Freetown, and asked that government reconsiders changing the travelling time from 7:00am to 7:00pm instead of the 9:00am to 5:00pm, which is now the case.

SLRTA Consultant, Alhaji Yazid Raschid – who heads the road safety and Ebola sensitization campaign team, informed the gathering that the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the SLRTA see it fit to join the campaign against the deadly Ebola virus. He revealed that UN statistics indicate that sub-Saharan Africa – which has 20% of the world’s vehicles – records about 60% of deaths caused by road accidents.

He noted that transmission of Ebola is mainly due to body contact and “it is from this angle that there is a connection between road safety and Ebola transmission”. He stressed that drivers should stop overloading their vehicles with passengers and that bike riders must discourage passengers from using helmet provided by riders, at least for now.

Alhaji Raschid reiterated individual and collective responsibility in combating Ebola and road traffic crashes.

“If 20 people in this room pass this message to three people each and they in turn give the information to another three persons, we would have directly and indirectly sensitized a whole lot of people,” he said while expressing the effect and importance of the campaign. “At a time like this, drivers must ensure they protect themselves and always have first aid kits (including gloves and sanitizers) in their vehicles.”

The campaign team visited the Shell Lorry Park where drivers and apprentices were admonished against unsafe practices in their vehicles while on the road. They were also informed about signs and symptoms of Ebola and why it is necessary to ensure that passengers with these signs or symptoms are refused entry into their vehicles, and that they should call 117 for help. Regular hand washing with soap and water was also emphasised.

At the Dwarzark Junction Okada Park, Alusine Dumbuya, National Public Relations Officer of the Bike Riders Union, informed his members that “road safety nar we all issue, so we for pay attention especially at this Ebola time”.

Abu Marah, Bike Riders Union Chairman, Western Region, also added his voice to the campaign message.

In his concluding remarks at all the meeting points, Alhaji Raschid stressed that: “Ebola go don, but Road safety issues will always be there.”