As the deadly Ebola infection and death toll surged up in villages and towns of Kailahun District, prominent sons and daughters of Kailahun have become very worried leading to them gathering yesterday Thursday 12th June 2014, at the Saint Edward Primary School at Fort Street in Freetown to plan a way forward. As dozens of them crammed into the compound, it was like a Who’s Who list of distinguished personalities from Kailahun. Some of those in attendance were former Chairman and Leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Mr. John Benjamin, the current Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Arrow Bockarie, the current Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mr. Lahai Sawi, the current Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security Mr. Augustine Kortu, the former Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Lansana Nyallay, Professor Sahr Gevao, Dr. John Karimu, Mr. Charles Mambu, Engineer Andrew Keili, Mr. Maya Kaikai, Mr. Albert Kawa, nurses, doctors as well as Honorable MPs representing Kailahun District. A significant number of women and students were also in attendance.
In the emergency meeting which started in the afternoon but only concluded in very late hours of last night, Kailahun indigenes representing all 14 chiefdoms and irrespective of their tribes, political affiliations, differences and ideologies unanimously reached special resolutions aim at proffering certain mitigation.
The Kailahun descendants did not mince their words as they expressed grave disappointment with what was unfolding in their district. The indigenes now have demanded of President Ernest Bai Koroma to “immediately” institute a “nation-wide” State of Emergency for the entire country that will address restriction of movement and justify the immediate provision of food and medical aid especially for the residents including health workers, victims and as well as women and children of the district.
In his opening statement, civil society activist Mr. Charles Mambu who chaired the meeting said it was timely for the people of Kailahun to put hands on deck and quickly join other stakeholders including government to fight the Ebola epidemic hemorrhagic fever. He said the rate at which people were dying in Kailahun was now “unbelievable”.
Mr. Victor Lahai, another civil activist, said whilst the government was “so far, not at all serious” to really stop the epidemic, it was a fact that if the epidemic were to hit any of the cities, “it cannot be easily overcome”. In that light, Mr. Lahai said it was timely for President Koroma to proclaim a nation-wide state of emergency as the deadly disease has been shown to now be “far above the abilities of the Ministry of Health”. He called for “all hands on deck, all available resources and all possible attention to be focussed on combating the spread of the killer disease”.
Speaker after speaker repeated for President Koroma to pay direct attention as his Health Minister has proven to be incapable so far. Speaker after speaker reiterated the call of Lahai for President Koroma to proclaim a State of Emergency for all of Sierra Leone.
For his part, Mr. John Benjamin bitterly blamed the government for downplaying the outbreak of the epidemic in the initial days. According to him they, the sons and daughters of Kailahun, were eventually going to take government to task for the deaths of their relatives by the deadly disease. He said they would look into the circumstances under which every single death has occurred. He said every death should be investigated.
John Benjamin reiterated that the government should have been able to better contain the disease when it first emerged because signals and symptoms were well known having been first reported in neighboring Guinea and Liberia and so giving the government more than enough time to have “known what to do when the first set of patients started to die of the symptoms in the remote village”.
At the end of his passionate speech, John Benjamin urged his people to now start financial contributions in order to provide basic safety gears and food assistance with immediate effect.
Engineer Andrew Keili, a potential presidential candidate for the opposition SLPP, said they should now create a bank account to immediately accrue funding for their people and move to the district. He also opined that the Ministry of Health alone cannot challenge the contagion at this moment so he recommended to the President to personally oversee a special task-force.
The Government Deputy Minister of Labour Minister Augustine Kortu who hails from Kissi Kama, said “at least 18 people have died in Foidu Village” in just the last few days only. He disclosed of many residents having abandoned that village. Having just returned from the Kissi Kingdom, the Deputy Minister said whilst he was there, “too many people have been giving up their ghosts to the deadly Ebola”.
Hon. Moiwa of Constituency 06 said as of yesterday, “34 people have lost their lives in just one week” inside Daru and around Jawei Chiefdom.
Making his contribution, the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation Mr. Sawi who also hails from the badly hit Jawei chiefdom, advised the people of Kailahun to “stop the blame games” and instead to forge ahead with robust efforts.
Deputy Minister Sawi frankly blamed the entire country for their denial of the deadly Ebola existence during initial sensitisation campaigns by his ministry. However, realising his contribution was raising tempers in the hall, the Deputy Health Minister was forced to acknowledge indeed there were lapses on the part of his ministry but assured Kailahun people that even as recently as yesterday, under leadership of President Koroma, the government has continued to improve on actions that will reduce the menace.
Professor Gevao who is also a medical doctor working for the Ministry of Health said it was like the gene of the Ebola in our country was completely difference from the one which appeared in Congo. He disclosed scientist discovery revealed that the Ebola that has broken out in the subregion has different genetic make-up. He said this made the outbreak even more worrying.
Speaking at the meeting, a university student who asked not to be named, said to show the incompetence of the Health Ministry’s efforts at surveillance, despite a female herbalist and her family members dying in sequence in Kissi Teng, this went on for several weeks without raising red flags that indeed Ebola had hit Sierra Leone. According to him, this showed that “no surveillance was being done”. He said as soon as rumours started spreading about the herbalist dying from an “offended mystery snake” which then killed her husband and then killed her sister and her grandchildren living with her, the government should have picked up that such deaths in sequence were due to a contagious condition and not a mystery snake adding, “The Health Ministry has totally failed my people in this respect”.
Indeed, it is now emerging that the surveillance and sensitisation of key risk settlement areas around Sierra Leone’s Kailahun border with Guinea, actually did not receive the required amount of surveillance nor sensitisation as had been trumpeted by the Health Minister Miatta Kargbo and which was reportedly well funded.
At the end of the meeting, Kailahun people were able to reach resolutions, some of which are to be forwarded as a position paper to His Excellency President Koroma. They also resolved to open a bank account and do an emergency fundraising; to provide for supply of chlorine and other safety gears for health workers and households. The meeting also agreed for a sub-committee to be set up to ensure for Kailahun doctors and nurses to offer proper medical care to be delivered in the district on a rotational basis.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.