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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Ebola outbreak: A lesson for African governments

By Alusine Sesay

A late friend of mine used to tell me that in life one should accept difficulties because such reminds one of being alive. Difficult times provide people with the opportunity to learn some moral lessons, which may guide their activities on earth. In difficult times you stand a chance to understand the true nature of human beings. In difficult times, you know your true and honest friends; you know who smiles to you or stabs you on your back. But no matter the circumstance, that doesn’t mean you should cut-off your relationship with those that failed to stand by you in times of difficulties. The fact remains your difficulties may have taught you some moral lessons which will help you become even wiser in handling difficult problems in the future.

Now three impoverished countries in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – have been confronted with a difficulty that would be written forever in their history books. The Ebola outbreak, like any other calamity, is one that should enable African governments, especially those of the affected countries, to learn some moral lessons. It should enable them to see beyond their noses and decipher the kind of relationship they should encourage going forward. The Ebola virus has claimed over a thousand lives in West Africa, according to World Health Organization figures, and these figures are expected to rise due to the vulnerability of the three countries in dealing with the virulent disease.

According to WHO update as of August 13, 2014, the disease has claimed 334 lives in Sierra Leone, while there are 783 suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola. Liberia has recorded 355 deaths with 670 suspected and confirmed cases. Guinea also recorded 510 suspected and confirmed cases with 377 deaths. Overall, the three countries have recorded 1,975 suspected and confirmed cases with 1,069 deaths as of August 13. This is devastating for these three impoverished West African nations where majority of the population live in squalor and abject poverty.

The Ebola outbreak has affected the three countries in diverse ways and its economic implications are ominous. There had been recorded outbreaks of the disease in East Africa with Uganda having witnessed it thrice. In West Africa, Ivory Coast recorded some cases of Ebola in 1994, but such was not of the magnitude we are now witnessing in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Economically, the three countries are currently hard hit in all economic spheres. In Sierra Leone, after the declaration of the state of public health emergency and the banning of public gatherings and the operations of all entertainment centres, hundreds of youth are currently jobless. There has been a considerable job cut in major entertainment centres, hotels and other private institutions. Investors and other expatriates have left the country and their return is very unlikely in this circumstance. Instead of making more money, the government is losing millions per day in the area of revenue generation as many businesses have closed down their operations. The government is currently spending millions of Leones from the consolidated fund without making any input into it. All other activities, including the massive infrastructure projects that were being undertaken across the country, have been halted with funds diverted to fighting the Ebola disease, which is ravaging lives across the country. One believes this is a similar story in Liberia and Guinea where public health emergencies have also been declared.

On Thursday August 14, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced an indefinite suspension of major academic activities, including the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and Private WASSCE, and above all the re-opening of schools in September. This is devastating for a country where the illiteracy rate is measured at 60% of the total population. Terrible indeed!

What is happening to my beloved Sierra Leone? One is absolutely confused and answers do not seem to be available for the numerous concerns and fears being raised by an already beleaguered and petrified population. Liberia and Guinea too have closed down all academic activities. The Ebola crisis has added salt to injury by putting hold to all academic activities in countries where the educational system is in shambles.

The negative economic and social impacts of the Ebola outbreak on the three countries are very much telling. The situation seems to be getting out of hands and needs concerted effort from the international community and the various governments and partners to contain its toll on the population.

Disappointedly however, on the international scene, to my view, the issue is being treated hypocritically because, according to the West’s perception, it involves people who President Barack Obama in his famous inaugural speech referred to as “those living in the forgotten corners of the world”. It involves people who are less important in the eyes of the international community, and who they could prey on whenever it pleases them. It involves a people who cannot define their own problem but rather determined by those that feel they have the moral right to do so. This is the time when Africa should learn some moral lessons and know how to forge ahead with life. The biases of the international community have been laid bear on the table. We all saw the kind of attention they gave to the two hundred and seventy-eight Europeans who died in the Ukraine plane shooting. Russia has been sanctioned economically and this was so because the people that were affected were Europeans. We have seen displays of their biases in the Gaza strip and other places across the world, and Africa should not be an exception. When it comes to Africa, our issues are allowed to die natural deaths with little attention given to them.

At a press conference organized at State House in Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma expressed frustration over the snail pace response of the international community to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. What beats the imagination of many Sierra Leoneans, including this writer, is that Britain – who colonised this country – has done little or nothing towards the fight against the Ebola outbreak. The United States, instead of increasing their funding to fight the disease in the impoverished West African nations, had rather invited African leaders at a cosmetic meeting where they negotiated for their companies to operate in Africa. In my view, such is a win-loss relationship that is largely meant to benefit their citizens over there.

We say thanks to the Chinese Government who has spent millions of dollars to help in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. Where are the so-called international community when things are going out of hands? Indeed, African leaders should learn some moral lessons from this Ebola outbreak that is currently ravaging the lives of their citizens. Remember, every cloud has a silver lining. And the silver lining in this case is that our leaders would now be able to know which kind of friendship they should encourage in future.

Just my views!

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