Monday, June 9, 2014

Fighting EVD in Sierra Leone; Is SEA The Ebola Virus?

I found this article on social media giving a different view of the response to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. I thought it was worth sharing.

By Saffa.

It is very obvious that the issue of the Ebola virus has been a constant topic of discussion since the outbreak started in neighbouring Guinea. The Ebola virus by all indications is a dreadful disease that has the propensity of claiming several lives within the shortest possible time and the dreadful aftermath of any contact of this disease to a significant extent is not an envisaged reality of any well meaning Sierra Leonean.

Quite recently, it has now been confirmed that this contagious disease is now within the precinct of the Eastern Provincial district of Kailahun. However, what is appalling is the fact that discussions on this deadly outbreak especially on social media have been trivialized and politicized by some rabble-rousing unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans of which I have the firm belief that is a smear crackdown on the national efforts in salvaging the outbreak.

It is crystal clear that this is a national concern and as a nation we should all clamour to intensify efforts in sensitizing and educating the public on government’s efforts in trying to curb and find appropriate solutions to this national menace. In times like this, politics should not be a matter of consideration but harnessing a concerted approach in managing and finding an amicable resolution to the menace. This is no time for petty politics.

But to put the argument into perspective, one may be wondering what efforts the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) has taken after the confirmation of the outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone. The ministry at a crucial moment like this should be seen pivotal in its efforts, measures, and campaign strategies, all in an effort to show its assertiveness and concern in finding a lasting solution to this emerging national scourge.

Prior to the outbreak in Sierra Leone, the MOHS has been on its alert and preparedness for any suspected cases around the border areas in the affected neighbouring Guinea. The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo has expressed government’s concerns and efforts in finding a solution to this outbreak and putting measures in place to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country. 

Indeed the mental picture held by several Sierra Leoneans about the Ebola virus is scary and awful, and this presupposes the fact that one has to be careful in handling and managing information about the virus.
To complement these strides, the ministry has been working in close partnership with the World Health Organization and several non-governmental organizations like Red Cross, Medicin San Frontiers, Oxfam etc together with a Task Force Surveillance team set up by the ministry to look into suspected cases and has been working since the outbreak started in Guinea.

The surveillance team comprises lab surveillance, coordination and management of reported cases. This in essence gives you a picture of work being done behind the scenes in curbing the disease. An intensified health communications strategy and a weekly task force meeting chaired by the minister were implemented. Since then, upon the request of the MOHS, a Metabiota Daily Report has been produced since the beginning of the Ebola alert in Sierra Leone reporting on laboratory diagnostics, training progress and other issues to EVD preparedness and response.

The emergency response team decided to train in less than ten days key health officials involved in the response of medical support clinic cases and field investigations. A total of 75 medical officers, 35 surveillance medical officers and, 25 port health officers have been trained in eight days. In further strengthening the efforts made, 50 primary health care workers have been trained (250 trainees) were trained by the previous trainees; a total of 385 health workers from Sierra Leone have been trained and supported with complementary equipment.
As earlier stated in this piece, Sierra Leoneans should refrain from playing politics with this deadly disease and must ensure that they abide by best hygiene practices in order for them to avoid contracting the disease.

But quite interestingly, it will appall citizens that the Special Executive Assistant to the President, Sylvia Blyden has been making a caricature of the whole situation and further making inciting and unfounded statements purported to be coming from the people of the Kissy Teng Chiefdom.
Since the outbreak in Kissy Teng, she has been blowing things out of proportion to the extent that the people of the said affected location have shown reluctance and outright refusal to report cases to the nearest health/isolation centers created by the ministry in Kenema.

But this woman (loose cannon) is undoubtedly known for bringing controversies on the presidency especially on compromising and undermining a national issue that has to do with national security. Her statements made on the social media is a clear manifestation of her snitch antics perpetrated to bringing a slur on the concerted effort of government on a critical situation like this. This is vividly captured by her inciting utterances made to journalists to vociferously attack the MOHS on such an issue that borders on the lives and livelihood of Sierra Leoneans. "I urge all investigative journalists to focus their skills SHARPLY on Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Do not be intimidated by the ministry's "press releases". NA OPEN-CALL !!", said the alarmist Sylvia Olayinka Blyden. It is a shame that it is coming from a close aide to the President. A clear picture of her undermining tricks. A snake indeed. Thus, the personification will appropriately fit the SEA as the Ebola Virus that must be contained.

Therefore, I urge all Sierra Leoneans to adhere to best hygiene practices and work concertedly in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus. Let us crawl out of our petty politics and imbibe the spirit of patriotism for the benefit of all and sundry.

We have a good shot at winning this very critical war against EVD if we manage information, education and communication surrounding the outbreak very well. We have a fighting chance in places like Kissy Teng and Kenema where we all know the virus might be present for now. But when we have people in our midst who are desperate to snuff out our chances, it becomes a problem – I mean a serious problem. After all, this outbreak is not about the minister of health or the ministry as a whole, but it has everything to do with the survival of Sierra Leone.

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