OCTOBER 24, 2014 By: Bankole Clifford Ekundayo Morgan, Human Rights Advocate
The respect for the promotion and protection of human rights has been seen as core value for the effective operation of the rule of law, democracy and good governance. Globally, the responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil human rights lies with States. Procedurally, international human rights instruments are signed and ratified by States; by this States are required to create mechanisms to safeguard human rights. It is true that the governance of human rights is multifaceted and it is obvious that without the political will no government will maintain a clean human rights record as there will be no right based approach in the national agenda.
NATIONAL AGENDA WITHOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IS BUILDING A PALACE WITHOUT CEILING
A National Agenda for Prosperity without recognizing and fully promoting Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is like building a palace without ceiling. Participatory democracy preaches the mode of governance in which all parts of government are involved, together with civil society and other kinds of national institutions. I am talking here about an independent judiciary, law enforcement agencies, effective and representative legislative bodies, and education systems with human rights programmes at all levels. Among these, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) occupy a unique position with an effective strategy in fully implementing the Paris Principle, which is the guiding document for all NHRIs. It would therefore be disheartening to see any NHRI condescending low by compromising its mandates and not maintaining its human rights grading/ranking, which is reviewed every four years by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC).
THE UNITED NATIONS IN PROMOTING AND PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY
Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations proclaims that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. The United Nations has tried to achieve this purpose by setting international norms. Today these standards cover virtually every sphere of human activity. The United Nations carries out a wide variety of public information activities, and has a technical cooperation programme to provide practical help to States in their efforts to promote and protect human rights.
However, since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it is evident that the countries affected by this deadly disease are widely discriminated against and have faced lots of humiliation which has to do with respect for human dignity. Ebola was never invited by citizens of the Republics of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, but why the calculated discrimination and humiliation levied on nationals of these countries at international airports and in some other countries? It is evident that authorities in some countries where citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are residing are considered as suspected carriers of the Ebola virus. This systemic pattern of discrimination against citizens of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia must stop as “nationals of these countries are not virus” nor “manufacturers of virus”.
On the other hand, it is advisable for countries to put in place protective measures which we failed as a nation to do for the containment of this deadly disease called Ebola. However, it should be done with the recognition that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.
Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations, what is your office doing in terms of public information activities in alleviating this huge challenge faced by nationals of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in the outside world? Are we not part of the global community? Can the UN speedily make some modification on the technical cooperation programme to provide practical help to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in their efforts to contain the Ebola virus?
STRATEGIES FOR CONTAINING AND ERADICATING THE EBOLA VIRUS IN SIERRA LEONE
The first reported case of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone was in May 2014 and by October, all fourteen administrative districts have been affected. At first government’s and public reaction was to be slow and lukewarm, but the death of Dr. Sheik Umar Khan heightened response and raised awareness on the threats and dangers of the disease.
The government initiated and continues to take measures it deems could contain and bring an end to the spread of the virus. In this regard, the government has taken the following steps:
- declared public emergency
- secured personal protective equipments for medical personnel
- approved weekly allowances to health workers
- changed the Minister of Health and Sanitation
- set up treatment centres in Kailahun, Kenema and Freetown
- set up national task force called Ebola Operations Centre (EOC)
- re-organized the EOC, renamed it National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and appointed Defence Minister as Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- instituted new protocols for arriving and departing passengers at Lungi International Airport
- instituted restrictions on public and other mass gatherings
- instituted quarantine measures for communities affected by Ebola
- declared three-day “Ose-to-Ose” Ebola sensitization
- authorized house-to-house searches to locate and quarantine Ebola suspected cases and Ebola cases
- ordered that all deaths be reported before burial
- required local government officials to establish laws to support Ebola prevention efforts
- authorized police and military personnel to help enforce these and other prevention and control measures of the spread of the Ebola virus
- Le63,000,000.00 given to each Member of Parliament to conduct sensitization and curtail the spread of the disease in their constituencies.
Bravo! Mr. President but the government needs to redouble its effort as we are losing able bodied men, women, youths and children every day.
Let me commend the media (print and electronic), civil society organisations and well-meaning Sierra Leoneans for their support to the government and affected communities. The efforts of the international community, though late, must also be commended. I sincerely pray that none of them would be infected and that they would succeed in their quest to assist the government eradicate the disease.
UPDATES ON EBOLA
The EOC updates on the Ebola disease are somehow welcoming. A good number of Sierra Leoneans depend on these updates for facts and figures. Some people consider them, especially the figures, as scary. The fatalities and the speed at which the disease is spread are eye openers that all hands should be put on deck to eradicate the disease.
However, I get confused with the figures as they do not in my estimation add up well. I have observed some discrepancies in the usual Ebola updates given by the EOC. A case study is October 19th 2014. The usual Ebola updates do not correspond with the projected cumulative laboratory confirmed cases. It was reported by the Ebola Operations Centre as follows:
- Cumulative laboratory confirmed cases = 3,156
- Total laboratory confirmed deaths = 973 (impliedly 30% death rate)
- Total Survived and Released Patients = 634
From the above, if you are very good at calculation you would have noticed discrepancies. The total number of laboratory confirmed death cases was 973, this plus the total survived and released patient cases which was 634 puts together will make up a total of 1,607. If we subtract 1,607 from the cumulative laboratory confirmed cases we would be left with 1,549. This remainder (as we refer to it in the elementary school) which is 1,549, is what baffles me most. How would we account for this? Do we take it that these are of people receiving treatment? If so, are there many beds in all the treatment centres nationwide? Correct me if I am wrong but as far as I know, there are not. So then, what happens in these treatment centres? Are patients lying on the floor, or are they being sent home to await admission? Can someone at the EOC, now NERC, please give me an explanation for a proper understanding of the updates?
MR. GOVERNMENT, WHAT PLANS FOR POST EBOLA SIERRA LEONE?
I have realised that government’s attention is only concentrated on the present fight against Ebola. In my view the fight against Ebola should be considered in three phases: “Pre-Ebola period, which we failed to do as a nation. Phase two, the Ebola period, which is the present state in which the government is trying to contain the virus, though late but not too late. And Post Ebola period, which I observed that government has not done anything to salvage that challenge. All of these stages are very critical and crucial in the fight against Ebola.
Monitoring the Ebola processes generally I have noticed that there is nothing like plans for post Ebola Sierra Leone, which I consider to be an error. I think government should start thinking and putting in place a strategy for post Ebola Sierra Leone. The government should start thinking about welfare of victims/survivors. In addition, should start strategizing how to regain the education, agriculture and economic recovery. In this drive all registered political parties should be on board.
The 2017 political parties’ manifestos start from here and we are consistently and constructively monitoring the inputs of political parties and individual politicians in the fight against Ebola. It is obvious that the homes and or families affected most are those where the breadwinners were the ones infected by the Ebola virus. The plain truth is that the victims/survivors will face socio-economic challenges which have the potential to make most of these affected families produce the highest numbers of school drop-outs.