Int’l Human Rights Day: Avoid stigmatizing Ebola survivors


- Human Rights Commission urges

DECEMBER 10, 2014 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

As they joined their counterparts the world over in observance of this year’s International Human Rights Day today (December 10), the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) has urged the general public to desist from stigmatizing Ebola survivors, frontline health workers and their family members.

The commission’s Chairperson, Brima Abdulai Sheriff, said the rapid spread of the Ebola virus disease has led to the loss of many lives thus further compounding the already existing socio-economic problems “with schools and other educational institutions still remain closed, jobs and livelihoods destroyed, businesses affected, and social, cultural and community cohesion threatened – the health sector being the worst hit”.

He said 2014 will be remembered as a year that the country encountered an unprecedented human rights challenge with the outbreak of the Ebola virus and with a negative impact on the full enjoyment of human rights.

“The commission remains committed throughout this period to support the efforts of government and its partners, and also to monitor the state of emergency measures that have been put in place,” said Mr. Sheriff. “The commission would like to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitments to safeguard the principles and standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to uphold human dignity.”

The HRC-SL chairperson called on all and sundry – young and old, man, woman, boy and girl – to obey and fulfill their individual responsibility in accordance with the preventive measures in the regulations, by-laws and medical advice given to eradicate the disease.

While recognizing and commending the contributions of government, frontline health workers, law enforcement agencies and traditional and religious leaders, among others in the Ebola fight, Mr. Sheriff urged for the human rights and human dignity of people to be respected as they embark on robust and effective implementation of the regulations, measures and by-laws geared towards eradicating the Ebola virus.

Regarding this year’s International Human Rights Day celebration, he noted that in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

“Today 10th December is International Human Rights Day and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone joins human rights defenders around the world in commemorating this day. This year’s global theme is: ‘Human Rights 365’. It embraces the idea that ‘every day is human rights day’ and that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights without discrimination,” he said.

Sheriff maintained that as a signatory to several international human rights treaties and agreements, the country is under obligation to ensure that basic human rights and fundamental freedoms contained in these international instruments and the 1991 Constitution are fulfilled and respected 365 days.

He however opined that notwithstanding all the progress made, there continues to be challenges in the realization of human rights [in] 365 days, citing the limitations in the provision of basic services to improve on citizens’ quality of life and the enjoyment of economic and social rights.