Salone in discussion with United States
By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
The government of Sierra Leone is in discussion with the United States for the use of new Ebola drugs by several hundreds of infected patients in the country, according to President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Speaking at an ‘informal meeting’ with executive members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), editors of newspapers and station managers of radio and television stations yesterday at State House, President Koroma said, “The EOC (Emergency Operation Centre) is working on it; we have had discussions with the Americans,” adding that engagements are ongoing and that “a pronouncement will be made in the next couple of days”.
President Koroma was reacting to a question posed by Concord Times as to whether the government of Sierra Leone has engaged their American counterparts on the use of the Zmapp drugs, which report says the United States has given the green for two Liberian doctors currently ill with the deadly Ebola virus to use.
The drug was recently administered to two American aid workers who contracted the virus in Monrovia. Doctors at Emory State University in the U.S., where the two were repatriated for treatment, say their condition remains stable.
President Koroma commended SLAJ and journalists for their role in sensitizing and raising awareness about the Ebola virus in the country. “Until our people are fully sensitized we will not contain the disease,” he said, conceding that the country’s “preparedness was not good enough to contain the virus”.
However, he said the spread of the virus could partly be blamed on denial, fear and misinformation, which he referred as “battles to contend with before you engage in the real fight to defeat Ebola”.
The President further revealed that part of the ‘battle’ will see the establishment of new Ebola treatment centers at Kerry Town for the Western Area, and another between Port Loko and Lunsar for the North. Already, the country is operating two Ebola treatment centers in Kailahun and Kenema, the epicenters of the virus.
President Koroma noted that the treatment centers need foreign experts to keep them up and running at the highest standard because local health workers lack the required professionalism and experience, while three out of four nationals with years of experience in treating hemorrhagic fevers, including Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, have died.
He appreciated the resolve of Sierra Leoneans and applauded the “sacrifices of health workers” in fighting the virus, adding: “This is why we have survivors”.
He underscored the need for commitment from, and vigilance and efficiency of contact tracers, as well as thorough sensitization of the populace.
He also appealed to the international community for more support to fight the virus, which according to official government figures, has killed 254 out of 683 confirmed cases. There are so far 181 survivors.
“Response and timely response by the international community will help contain the virus. It is an international crisis because anybody can transport it to another country,” he noted. “The international community has a moral commitment to help stop the spread of the disease. The greatest fight is in stopping the transmission.”
Meanwhile, President Koroma declared that government has allocated Le49.9 billion to the fight against Ebola, while Le11.567 billion donations have been received from individuals and institutions.
In addition, he said, donations have been received from the World Health Organisation – US$209,000 and the UK Department for International Development – US$317,000, although the budget for the national response has a whopping funding gap of US$18.2 million. The US$25.5 million fund has so far garnered only US$7.6 million, he revealed.