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‘No freedom until we are free from Ebola’

- Bishop Yambasu

July 23, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Bishop of the United Methodist Church Sierra Leone, John K. Yambasu, has said that there will be no absolute freedom for the people of Sierra Leone until the country is totally free from the deadly Ebola virus, which has claimed the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans.

He was delivering a keynote address yesterday at a one-day conference organized by Focus 1000 at the Miatta Conference Hall to engage religious leaders on how to give a final push to the Ebola virus with the theme: “Reaching and staying at zero Ebola case in Sierra Leone”.

The man of God stated that Ebola has become a household name in the country and that each and everyone Sierra Leonean has been affected by the virus either directly or indirectly.

He said there was a lot of denial among Sierra Leoneans when the Ebola broke out, with some insinuating that it was a ploy by the ruling government to reduce the population in the strongholds of the opposition, while others were saying it was the work of witchcrafts.

“Some religious people even insinuated that it was a punishment from God. Others too said different things about the virus till it claimed the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans,” he stated.

Bishop Yambasu observed that the outbreak affected the trust people had in one another as everybody became a suspect, and that even families no longer trusted themselves.

He said the stigmatisation attached to the disease also affected Sierra Leoneans traveling abroad, adding that the outbreak affected the economy of the country as vessels and flights stopped coming for fair of being infected with the virus.

“Many businesses closed and thousands of Sierra Leoneans lost their jobs,” said the UMC Sierra Leone Bishop. “The virus affected education as schools and colleges closed for almost one year, which resulted to teenage pregnancy and abuse of drugs among school-going children across the country.”

Chief Executive Officer of FOCUS 1000, Alhaji Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, expressed his appreciation to the religious leaders for their effort in sensitising their congregations about the dos and don’ts to prevent the spread of the virus.

He said they had a perfect collaboration with religious leaders in the fight against Ebola and that they were never disappointed in such synergy because they have to date been observing how the religious leaders pass on the massage to their congregations.

Mr. Jalloh noted that the country would envisage another problem because people no longer have trust in the health system, and that should they fail to build trust, the country would record another disaster.

Speaking on behalf of the Religious Leaders Taskforce on Ebola, Bishop Emeritus Arnold Temple said the Ebola virus struck the country at a time nobody was expecting it. He said religious leaders set up a taskforce to respond to the virus and sensitized their congregations, as well as supplied food items to quarantined homes in Freetown and the provinces.

He said the engagement with Focus 1000 created a lot of impacts and enabled them to achieve a lot of success in the fight.

Bishop Temple called on the government to allow people to bury their loved ones in their own cemeteries, especially when it would have been established that the person did not die of the Ebola virus.

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