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For Ebola: Our Voices Should be Heard

NOVEMBER 10, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin

Six months since the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease struck the country, the government is still grappling with how best to get their act together; and to put a sort of Marshal Plan on how to contain the continual spike of the virus.

Recently the government ‘tactically’ renamed the “Emergency Operation Center”, headed then by Steven Gaojia, to the “National Ebola Response Center” with Retired Major Palo Conteh as the Chief Executive Officer. This, according to the government, was done to give the fight against the Ebola Virus a ‘military like approach – command and control’.

But all we keep hearing from government circle is “We are on top of the Ebola Virus situation”, while the virus continues to spread unabatedly and kill its victims with the ‘speed of a light’. Government response in curtailing the Ebola virus spread in the country has not been radical. Words have not been match with the right actions.

It is time to wake up! It is time for our voices to be heard. It is not a time to run around like headless chooks with no clear voice on what we want the government to do to halt the recurrent geometrical spread of the Ebola Virus in the country.

I vividly recall warnings when the Ebola virus broke out in neighboring Guinea and Liberia, and subsequently when the first case was reported in Kailahun, the government never heeded to the ‘voice of wisdom’ nor ‘act swiftly’. The real reason for this reluctance is simple – we never had the requisite personnel that have been trained and the technical knowhow to deal with diseases of this nature and magnitude. We were caught off-the-cuff.

Now, it is a tragedy of incalculable magnitude – over a thousand lives have been lost, thousands more are currently infected with little or no hope of survival. The blood of hundreds of victims of the Ebola virus is all over the land. We don’t want to witness how atrocious the final numbers of the Ebola virus victims will be in the country.

The government should not try to put a spin on everything surrounding the Ebola Virus. The government should open her eyes to the realities of the virus before we are all blindly drowned by it. The government should no longer treat with contempt suggestions regarding how best to contain the Ebola virus in the country from well meaning Sierra Leoneans both at home and abroad.

Incompetence on the part of the handlers of the Ebola outbreak should no longer be glorified. Competence on all fronts should be the watchword of the government henceforth.

The abrupt use of extremely negative tactics in covering the abrupt lack of ‘a clear direction’ in dealing with the continual spread of the Ebola virus must stop. The unrelenting production of red herrings, using stonewalling tactics to ‘turn the light off’ on constructive criticisms on the way forward for the country should be discontinued.

Thinking still that these tactics will win back public trust eventually will amount to living in an illusory state of well-being. I dare to say that without policy competence, responsive governance driven by appropriate political will, a clear leadership role and positive developments, the government will continue to stay in a state of disfavor. The reasons will be so obvious – all huff and puff. No efficient, no decisive and no proactive response in curtailing the Ebola virus.

I don’t pretend to know exactly what the solution should be, but I have a couple of ideas that might be worth considering.

First and foremost, all corrupt, rotten to the core and saboteurs in our collective fight towards eradicating the Ebola virus in the country, who are in President Koroma’s government must as a matter of ‘urgent importance’ be shown the way out by the President.

Secondly, massive efforts should now be channeled to aggressive publicity, tactical surveillance, intelligence contact tracing and district containment, rather than ‘imaginative medication’.

Thirdly, government should redouble its efforts in sending medical staff abroad for training and re-training. Medical personnel should be given priority for overseas training as against the political class who often than not, hijack such training and opportunities for their cohorts who eventually end up converting such training opportunities to political jamboree and merry making.

Then, all front-line fighters, especially in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, who are willing and ready to fulfill the most bail of their responsibilities to the country must be encouraged morally, psychologically and financially.

Furthermore, new Infectious Diseases Hospitals should be constructed in the 14 districts of the country, with referral centers in all the regional headquarters. This is precisely the type of health facilities the country needs. It will enable us to deal with such potentially lethal situation in the future – although we do hope such scenario never befall us again as a people. However, we must not be complacent.

In addition, concrete screening plans on what to do with persons coming into the country from neighboring countries that may have experienced the Ebola virus should also be put in place at all entry points. No more acting like ‘rabbits in the headlights’. We don’t want to get run over by the virus again.

Moreover, there should be honesty, sincerity, dedication and patriotism to duty across board. This is not the time for parochialism, chauvinism and ethnocentrism. Neither is it the moment for colorless dreams, fairy tales, cheap talks, dwarf goals, and blame game. All negative stimulation, incitements and tendencies should cease.

Lastly, the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah should henceforth not only ‘talk the talk’ about government preparedness for any other health catastrophe, free medical care, decrease in infant and maternal mortality, eradication of polio, malaria and cholera, but also ‘work the talk’.

Never again should we fold our hands, in akimbo and allow infectious diseases arrive in our country, either by neglect, accident or design. As a people we must now learn to respond well to matters involving both visible, invisible thingies and sciences.

Finally, we should all know that we hold these truths to be self-evident. We are created to be one; the bonds that bind us together as Sierra Leoneans are stronger than the ones that pull us apart.

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