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Friday, May 20, 2022

Aftermath of Ebola…

Schools in Kailahun closed, public gathering banned

By Mohamed Massaquoi

As government and health development partners continue to contain the outbreak of Ebola, which has so far claimed the lives of tens of Sierra Leoneans especially in Kailahun district, eastern Sierra Leone, a release published yesterday by the Ministry of Information and Communication revealed that schools in Kailahun have closed with immediate effect, and that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is making arrangement with the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for affected pupils who are slated to sit the National Basic Education Examinations (BECE) to take the exams at a later date.

This, according to government, is to minimise the risk of transmission from person to person of the deadly Ebola virus, while a prohibition on all public gatherings, including cinemas, cultural activities and night clubs in that part of the country, has been announced.

“The Government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other participating ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) is therefore putting the following measures in place with immediate effect as part of an overall national strategy in addressing the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

“That local and cross-border trade fairs (locally known as the “Lumors”) are temporarily closed until such a time when the Ebola virus would have been contained; all vehicles and their passengers entering and leaving Kailahun district must subject themselves to screening by authorities at various checkpoints; that the general public is mandated to report to health authorities any person(s) or stranger(s) with symptoms of the Ebola disease in their respective communities for appropriate professional health interventions; that all deaths across the country must be reported and certified by an authorised health professional before burial; and all Ebola or related deaths must be buried at place of occurrence under the supervision of health personnel,” the release stated.

It is also reported that most non-governmental organizations working in the district have closed their activities.

However, more than seven lawmakers representing constituencies in the district have pointed accusing fingers at Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo, for not adequately preparing health officials for the outbreak, noting that though the Health Minister openly announced to Sierra Leoneans that her ministry was well capacitated to handle the Ebola outbreak, it came out to be false and misleading.

Hon. Mustapha Braima of Constituency 002 said the ministry should have ensured that health workers have protective gears at various peripheral health units (PHUs) close to Guinea, but unfortunately the ministry exposed health personnel at local and community levels to the Ebola disease without providing them with appropriate equipment, skills and knowledge to handle the highly contagious disease.

“In a meeting held with the minister at her ministry, we agreed that we should go to our respective constituencies to sensitize our people. We were giving 180 litters of fuel and an allowance of Le350,000 a day. We even spent more days in those constituencies. It is important to know that the ministry has not put much mechanism in place to address the Ebola outbreak in this country. We want strong government intervention so that our people will stop dying of Ebola,” he said.

Hon. Abu Jajua echoed similar sentiments by urging government to pay more attention to health workers and health institutions. He said most health workers have deserted their clinics because of lack of support and equipment, noting that the Nixon Hospital in Segbwama is now manned by a sole medical doctor.

“The entire Kailahun district does not have more than three doctors, this is unfortunate. Our people are dying, we need health service providers to come onboard to savage this situation. There were two foreign doctors helping the resident doctor at Nixon Memorial hospital but they have left as a result of the outbreak,” he said and appealed for prompt action from government and development partners.

Hon. Patrick Foyah of Constituency 001 confirmed to this medium that the entire government hospital in Kenema has been deserted as health workers failed to show up for work on the grounds that they are not protected.

He said one of his relatives died at the female hospital in Kenema although medics confirmed that she was suffering from malaria.

“After spending some days at the hospital, her condition continued to degenerate. The first information was that she was suffering from common malaria and the doctor has been treating her for the said illness. In fact she was admitted at the female ward of the hospital with other patients. Later on when we noticed that her condition was getting out of hands, I personally called her brother to take her to a private hospital. Unfortunately she died this morning, but the mystery part of it was that I received a telephone call from Dr. Khan who is in charge of Ebola cases at the Kenema hospital that the lady was Ebola positive. This shows that proper examination is not conducted on some of these people,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Hon. Sahr Tengbeh, whose constituency the Ebola virus was first confirmed, pleaded with his colleagues to stop the blame game and address the issue of saving the lives of the people.

He however agreed with the other lawmakers that government has to improve on its level of intervention, especially in communities where there is an upsurge in the number of Ebola deaths.

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