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Pres. Koroma admits ‘gaps in Ebola fight’

DECEMBER 4, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi

President Ernest Bai Koroma

President Ernest Bai Koroma

President Ernest Bai Koroma has conceded that there is still huge deficiency in the fight against the dreaded Ebola virus in the country, noting that though there has been a lot of international support to quell down the epidemic, huge challenges still exist.

The president was speaking yesterday during a joint press conference with the World Bank Group President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, at State House in Freetown.

He said he was happy that the World Bank president at some point organized a round-table discussion to galvanize massive international support to help Sierra Leone in the fight.

“The visit of the World Bank president is very encouraging because he has assured us that they will stick with Sierra Leone till the end of this Ebola crisis. That was not the only assurance given to us but he has also emphasized that the World Bank will put strategies in place to ensure that our economy is back on track,” said President Koroma. “However, there is still a big gap in the fight against the Ebola pandemic, as at today, we are at 406 bed capacity in our treatment centres, and the total requirement is about 1,500.”

Koroma added: “We are still at 726 bed capacity in our holding centres and we require 2,000 beds. We have five operational labs with sixty or hundred samples a day but in actual fact, we need to increase that to hundred and two hundred sample tests a day. We still need to have more contact tracers and surveillance officers because of the shift and spread of the pandemic.”

The president emphasised that in fighting the Ebola disease, the focus is to isolate the virus and not the entire country.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a separate meeting with President Koroma they spoke about the importance of finishing the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone but at the same time to work on economic recovery.

He said the World Bang Group, in partnership with the United Kingdom, is committed to help Sierra Leone in its emergency response.

“Our plans will cover five areas: first of all we have given one hundred and sixty million dollars to Sierra Leone to help in the Ebola crisis. We are absolutely committed in finding sufficient resources to eradicate Ebola in Sierra Leone,” said the World Bank boss. “This is going to involve a lot of efforts, especially in the Port Loko District and the Western Area. We will help farmers to recover from this crisis by building feeder roads that help connect farmers to the   market. We will make sure that after the Ebola disease there will be no food shortage.”

Dr. Kim said the Bank is also working to protect the vulnerable from the economic consequences of the Ebola epidemic.

“We hope to improve on infrastructure secured services such as electricity, which will help the wellbeing of citizens. And finally we need Sierra Leone to help create jobs for people to recover their resources,” he said, adding that the Bank will ensure improved financial management.