May 8, 2014 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
A team of Nigerian African Union medical team which was deployed in Sierra Leone to provide support in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa yesterday bade farewell to the government and people of Sierra Leone after completing their tour of duty.
The team, which comprised 111 health professionals, was deployed at Ebola treatment centres across the country, cared for no fewer than 166 Ebola patients, including 106 survivors.
Speaking during a farewell event at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown Thursday, Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Mrs. Gladys Modupe Quist-Adebiyi, said the Nigerian medical ambassadors have completed their task of helping Sierra Leone fight the Ebola virus and would depart the country on 14 May.
She said the team arrived in Sierra Leone on 5 December 2014 – at the peak of the outbreak – and went into action immediately as they were deployed in the provinces.
The top female diplomat said she was elated by the fact that the team was well received by officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Health and Sanitation at the Lungi International Airport last year.
Mrs. Quist-Adebiyi said the team introduced psycho-socio therapy in the fight against the deadly virus by disinfecting quarantined homes and libeling graves of victims.
In his statement, team leader Dr. Musa Abdullahi said working as volunteers in the country to eradicate the Ebola virus disease gave them immense experience to, in future, battle the virus not only in Nigeria but in Africa as whole.
He revealed that they conducted over 1,000 Ebola virus tests in their mobile lab, as well as disinfected more than a thousand quarantined homes.
“We did not regret our stay, we were well accommodated in your country and we have made a lot of friends too,” said Dr. Abdullahi. “We are going but some of us will want to come back in as much as we pray for the Ebola to stay zero so that when we are coming the next time it would not be in the interest of Ebola fight again but we would want to come and work or do business in your land.”
On behalf of the government of Sierra Leone, Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Abubakarr Fofanah expressed his gratitude to the team and the Nigerian government, through the High Commissioner, for the great job of saving the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
He said the country had come a long way in the fight against the virus as it all stated in Guinea and Liberia before crossing over into Sierra Leone in May 2014, adding that the virus had killed in excess of 3,000 people in the country, including medical personnel.
“Nigeria has always been supportive to us in different areas; when the virus entered the country they were the first [African] people to answer to our cry by sending medical troops into the country. The same they did during our 11 years civil war when they sent the largest troops into the country. This has really demonstrated that they are indeed big brother to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Ebun Strasser-King, was effusive in thanking and commending the Nigerian medical team, as she underscored the risk they undertook to come and fight an invisible and lethal enemy like the Ebola virus.