TANGIBLE ACTION NOT LIP-SERVICE CAN CONTAIN EBOLA
By Joseph Fomolu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As I sat down in my veranda in Bo on the eve of the three days open detention, all women I saw on okada (motorbikes) had big shopping bags to buy for the three days lockdown. I imagine seeing them elbowing each other at markets where prices of foodstuffs they had gone to buy had been increased, not for fear of shortage of supply but for greed to make quick and more profit.
My neighbours were busy frying fish whole day to prepare for the three days. If you were not aware of the lockdown, on seen a neighbour doing such a thing normally, you will think that it was a birthday celebration or naming ceremony for which you should take laxative to enable you eat more food on the day in question.
But it was not so! It was for the lockdown. I had never seen this before. Not seen it in Liberia and Guinea where I had lived before. I had not seen this before in all the 13 districts in Sierra Leone where I had worked before, excluding Bonthe, where I married my wife. This shows the reason why government should be serious with the fight against Ebola. Three days quarantining was no child’s play! The sacrifice made was worthwhile, though more efforts required.
I had said in my previous article that ‘a holistic approach’ was imperative to contain this invisible enemy called Ebola. In my suggestions, I called on government to provide the necessary incentives for health workers, as well as equipping them with the essential gears to work with. I also suggested to government to do thorough contact tracing of those any Ebola victim had been in contact with. In addition, I suggested government buy its own ambulances from the monies donated instead of waiting on benevolent scrapped ambulances from goodwill partners abroad. Moreover, I suggested, Sierra Leoneans repent their sins of fornication, adultery, corruption, lies, stealing, witchcraft, etc.
Ebola may not have taken us by surprise, because it did not emanate from Sierra Leone, but from Guinea and later Liberia. Yet as of now it is more prevalent in Sierra Leone and Liberia (two countries whose population is three times less than the population of Guinea).
In Guinea, contact tracing was more effective, apparently for the dissemination of the correct message about the causes of Ebola, symptoms, prevention and its treatment. Guineans took prompt action to contain the virus, while in Sierra Leone, distorted messages were preached on it. Among the messages were that, ‘there is no cure for Ebola, if somebody is vomiting, having frequent stool, coughing, etc’ it was Ebola. These are all symptoms of household diseases like malaria, fever, cough, bloody diarrhea.
Lip service was paid to contain it at the initial stage of its outbreak. Government failed to satisfy health workers who were at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. Instead of providing incentives for health workers in terms of remuneration and provision of equipment, government allegedly gave Le62m to each Member of Parliament to do outreach services on Ebola in their constituencies where some are mere tourists. They hope to visit when General Election is near. Medical personnel became disgruntled.
Medical personnel vulnerable to the Ebola virus were little considered even as the champion of the disease, Dr. Sheik Omar Khan became a victim. Health workers lack the tools to work with. No protective gears, no staff quarters! Hence, they too became victims when they came in contact with patients with the virus. For lack of staff quarters, they mingled with their co-tenants and house patients and gradually spread the disease.
Today the country is in a quagmire as to how to tackle it since the virus has overwhelmed health workers.
EBOLA CASES CONTINUE TO INCREASE
Cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia continue to increase towards the 20,000 projection of WHO. Our governments have been floundering in containing the disease. As I mentioned before, health workers were not properly catered for. Besides, most Members of Parliament are not grassroots politicians. They visit their constituencies only when General Election is around the corner. How would they disseminate the correct information about Ebola when some are yet to know all the chiefs in their constituencies? Who are they going to talk to about Ebola? Do they command respect in their constituencies?
Another flaw in the containment of Ebola is using more of conventional media than traditional media. These two are twins in bringing about social change. If you want tangible results you cannot use one and leave the other.
Government is floundering because the strategies adopted to fight the enemy have been ad hoc. That is why there is an increase in the cases of Ebola.
Why are there conflicting figures from the Government of Sierra Leone and WHO?
AFTER THE THREE DAYS LOCKDOWN, OR THREE DAYS SIT-AT-HOME EBOLA AWARENESS RAISING, WHAT NEXT?
Sierra Leoneans are eager to see what dividend this euphemism of quarantine or lockdown will yield when health workers are still complaining of not receiving their risk allowances. However, it is encouraging to note the plans by the international community to help in the fight against this Ebola Amalekite. President Obama has pledged his support for the countries affected. The Cubans have come, together with our colonial masters Britain, whom some of our radio stations were insinuating they were yet to do something.
United States Aids Agencies (USAID) is committing $75m towards the fight against Ebola. European Union, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank, Arab Bank, and other financial institutions have all pledged their collective support to help affected countries. This shows the affected countries are not islands.
The consequence or impact of the lockdown should be used to properly strategise on how to confront this enemy to eradicate it with these funds friendly partners are going to help us with from the labours of their taxpayers.
EBOLA TO BE CONTAINED SOON IF TANGIBLE EFFORTS ARE MADE
It is easy to eradicate Ebola if government takes the right attitude. Government to provide the right gears to all peripheral and referral hospitals (chiefdom level included). For instance, there are 149 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone. All the Health Centres in these chiefdoms must each have an ambulance. How much has been donated so far? How much is to come? An ambulance may not be over Le40m. If each MP receives about Le240m annually for pseudo development projects, ‘I believe that’ Government is capable of providing ambulances for all referral and peripheral Health Centres around Sierra Leone. How many Members of Parliament do we have? Multiply the Le240m by number of Members of Parliament. What will be the total? How much will it amount to if Government is serious in strengthening the hospitals and Health Centres with ambulances?
Traditional leaders know landlords. Landlords also know their tenants. Therefore, the chiefs, landlords/landladies and tenants are crucial in the Ebola sensitization. They can easily pass the message to the proposed receivers in a timely and factual manner in their respective languages.
Not many people listen to radio. Those who listen, listen to music programmes, while few listen to development programmes. Most of the youth watch European Leagues, are glued to WhatsApp and listen to music. When the Ebola sensitization programme is on radio some of them will be away from their radio. Most do not even have the culture of buying batteries for their radio when electricity current is off.
For television, how many people can afford to buy? How many have access? How many have time to watch our SLBC TV programmes? Most homes in Africa watch more of foreign TV stations than our own TV stations; contrary in the West. Therefore chiefs should be involved in the Ebola eradication process. Let the Ebola experts talk to the chiefs, who will also talk to the landlords and landladies, and will talk to us tenants to go to the hospital when having symptoms of illness.
In addition, loud hailers on Ebola sensitization must be stationed at all strategic points in our cities, villages and towns.
Another panacea to halt Ebola is for government to give health workers their bona fide wages and allowances in time and regularly. Let all Health Centres in Sierra Leone be provided with requisite gears to work with instead of using money to pay ghost workers in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Avoid overcrowding of Ebola suspected patients.
To emphasise, it is also a prerequisite to use both traditional and conventional media appropriately. For example, chiefs are more respected in their areas. They are the first contact with their people. These chiefs are able to bring together all Family Heads in their towns and villages, who in turn have family members that respect them. They are able to talk to them to know about the Ebola, symptoms, causes and the need to go to the hospital for treatment without delay.
No health worker or pharmacist must touch a patient without using gloves.
Above all, let the people of the affected countries repent their sins; covetousness, selfishness and greed, corruption, lies, stealing, fornication, adultery, killings for promotion and carnal love. While repenting, don’t touch anybody! No hugging! No shaking of hands until Ebola is extinguished. Avoid Body Contact (ABC)! Avoid People’s Compound (APC)!