''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 7

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday August 16, 2012 - After months, weeks, days and hours of being in denial smoke and mirrors President finally admits there's a problem. Cholera outbreak claims more than a hundred and sixty lives - Sierra Leonean lives as the government declares the cholera epidemic a national emergency.Health Minister Zainab Bangura - cholera swan song?A young cholera victim receiving emergency treatment. One of the few lucky ones.

Sierra Leone's smoke and mirrors President has finally bit the bullet and admitted that the present cholera outbreak is serious enough to be declared a national emergency. According to media reports from Freetown, the Sierra Leone government has now set up what it calls a task force to combat the epidemic, which according to government figures released by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, has affected 8 of the country's 13 regions and spreading. Figures released by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, the international children's organisation states that the situation as at August 13, 2012 more than nine thousand cases (9613) cases have been reported with one hundred and sixty (160) deaths reported.

To date, 12 August 2012, a cumulative total of 9613 cases and 163 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS).Case-fatality ratio (the proportion of cases that lead to death) based on reported cases remains at 1.7%, which is much higher than the recommended <1% for a cholera outbreak. The most severely affected districts in terms of numbers of cumulative cases from 1 January 2012, are Western Area with a total of 4374 cases and 57 deaths, Port Loko 2681 cases and 39 deaths and Kambia 1102 cases and 28 deaths. On 12 August 2012, Western Area reported the highest number of cases (176) and deaths (2) followed by Tonkolili with 50 cases and 1 death and Bombali with 22 cases. It is alarming to note that cholera cases are increasing significantly in the formerly low reporting districts of Tonkolili
and Bombali.

The government and international aid agencies as well as Western representatives have promised to chip in and help Sierra Leone tackle the spreading contagion with worried actors expressing concern over the increase in the number of cases recorded in the capital Freetown.

The increase in the number of cases in Western Area is of particularly concern, due to its crowded living conditions, poor sanitation and inadequate access to safe water. WHO, UNICEF and other partners continue to support national authorities to effectively respond to the cholera outbreak. Interventions to control the epidemic are being scaled up in the areas of communication and social mobilization; case management; surveillance; hygiene and sanitation including treatment of drinking water.

It is to be recalled that local media had repeatedly reported on the spreading epidemic - on the rising numbers of people affected and deaths recorded and yet the see no evil, hear no evil cabal continued sitting on its hands until concerns were raised by the international community within and outside the country.

Even as people were dying and the affected were crying out for help, government-controlled media outlets kept sealed lips praising their chief benefactor to high heavens on how his government had converted the country into their version of utopia as the poor and unconnected succumbed to their affliction.The story of a tragedy unfolding in Sierra Leone

The international broadcaster, Al Jazeera revealed that the government had now declared the cholera outbreak a national emergency stating that this decision was reached after a meeting between the government, representatives of the World Health Organisation, WHO and the United Nations Children's organisation, UNICEF.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), of eight of the country's 13 districts are affected by the outbreak, with the increase in the number of cases in the Western Area of particular concern. Other badly affected districts are Port Loko in the north of the country, where 43 people have died and Moyamba in the south where 35 people have died.

The WHO and other agencies have noted on their web pages that

WHO, UNICEF and health partners have increased their support to the MoHS to scale up response to by strengthening social mobilization and communication activities at the community level. Refresher training on cholera case management is in the pipeline to further reinforce peripheral health units operating across the affected districts. Partners such as MSF-Belgium are supporting the establishment and operation of a network of special cholera treatment centers. Current preventive measures being used to control the epidemic include treating ill persons with oral rehydration solution as early as possible when symptoms start, providing access to safe water, and encouraging good hygiene and sanitation practices.

Reports from the capital Freetown say the government has admitted it did not provide enough resources to halt the initial reports of the disease outbreak wishing it away instead of doing something positive to save the lives of the afflicted. And this from a government that has been busy siphoning any and all sources of revenue into the pockets of its operatives, completely ignoring warning signs from the Government Audit Office on the corruption that has become the calling card of all of its functionaries - from those within the borders of Sierra Leone to those who have been feathering their corruption nests in our missions abroad.

Even though the Auditor-General had requested proper accounting from the Financial Secretary into how double payments were made to State House over the President on his jamborees to the United Nations General Assembly, no action has been taken by a Financial Secretary who was thrust into such a serious and important position after he had soiled his hands over those ferries and was ordered to refund a certain amount. There has been no public statement as to whether he had refunded the money as stipulated by the Anti Corruption Commission.

6. Duplication of payment in respect of United Nations general assembly meetings

The following were observed:

That MOFED paid twice for accommodation and other incidental allowances in respect of the United Nations General Assembly Meetings in New York-once to the Office of the Secretary to the President and again to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

During the Financial year 2008, the Office of the Secretary to the President received US$57,161 for the 63rd UN General Assembly Meeting; for the same period an amount of US$43,800 was also remitted to the Mission for the same purpose.

In the 2009 Financial Year, the MOFED paid US$46,691.00 in respect of the 64th UN General Assembly Meeting and remitted US$36,596 to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission for the same purpose.

During the 2010 Financial Year, the Office of the Secretary to the President received US$54,267 to cover accommodation, incidental and imprest in respect of the 65th UN General Assembly meeting and for the same period an amount of US$49,915 was remitted to the Mission.

Of utmost concern to the auditor was the unavailability of the relevant supporting documents and schedules to cover those payments. We therefore recommended that the Financial Secretary should explain, with substantial evidence, why duplicate payments were made in respect of the UN General Assembly Meetings; in the absence of which the amounts involved should be refunded by the officers concerned.

And so as the poor continue to waste away and die under horrible circumstances, the smoke and mirrors President and his minions see nothing, hear nothing as they continue their massive looting using all and whatever means necessary.

Message of the Day:

Always wash hands with soap and safe water after using the toilet, before eating, and after caring for a sick person.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002