''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 XI No 5

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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(All pictures are from the Channel Four programme - Unreported World - Surviving Ebola film)

Saturday September 27, 2014 - Channel 4 programme - Unreported World is a must view for everyone concerned about the Ebola scourge as this programme vividly tells the story of the ravages of the vicious Ebola terror that is preying on the lives of the wary, unwary and all those who cross the path of the vicious terror.The voice of poor Fatmata crying out her feelings of being cold before she died. RIP.Fallah also tested positive for the Ebola virus. He succumbed leaving behind their four children. RIP.

Last evening, Channel Four television in one of their programmes in the series Unreported World did a film on how the Ebola scourge snatches unsuspecting victims and as US President Obama observed - people just wanting to show love and concern to loved ones get ensnared in the web of death woven by the killer virus.

According to Channel Four - "Unreported World provides a unique view of what life is like for the health workers battling Ebola in Sierra Leone and the families affected by the virus. As the only television crew to spend two weeks embedded in field hospitals and quarantine units, reporter Shaunagh Connaire and director Wael Dabbous were in Sierra Leone at a critical phase when there was still a chance to contain the virus. In the time they were there though it was clear the battle to contain it was being lost. This Ebola outbreak has claimed nearly 2000 lives. The World Health Organization warns the virus could ultimately infect more than 20,000 people. Without the bravery and determination of those battling the virus, the figures would be far higher."

This pictures/film clips/film was done while the government was still in denial of just how serious the outbreak was and just before the rat finally declared it was a situation that demanded the formal announcement of a health emergency throughout the country. This film should be carefully studied because there are key lessons to be gleaned from it which should make clear that though the Ebola virus attack can be extremely deadly with over fifty percent fatality, the beast can still be  controlled if suspected cases are tested, isolated and treated in as speedy a manner as is possible. That would ease the pain and anxiety of those who later prove positive.

Again we say that all is not lost and as we learn from the hard lessons of the past, we should be in a position to curb the ravages of the scourge - a first step in the battle to contain and eliminate the Ebola virus from our land. Let us also not make the mistake of lowering our guard should it appear that the battle has been won. No way for we fear that once introduced in the country and neighbouring states like Liberia and Guinea, we would still be at risk of contracting the disease.A recovering Kadiatu expresses concern over her husband's deteriorating condition.

This Channel Four film is a great eye opener and we salute the brave reporters, camera crew and everyone involved in bringing to the world the real story of the disease and how it affects ordinary people, families, communities as well as the fears and myths associated with it. We have got stills from the film to highlight the story of a Sierra Leonean called Fallah, his wife Kadiatu, their four children and most poignantly, the fate of poor seven year old Fatmata who died after her mother and a grand parent succumb to the disease.

The film brings you the cries of the poor girl as she shouted - "I am feeling cold". Now anyone who has been with somebody afflicted with malaria or having suffered from it yourself would know that feeling of being cold with the body shivering out of control. So what do relations do? They find a blanket or proper covering so that the body could be kept warm so as to relieve that cold feeling. It invariably works when it is malaria as medications are given to cure the disease and symptoms. But this is not malaria. It is Ebola and the covering used to bring out a sweat on the afflicted becomes a source of infection and so is the nasty and vicious disease spread. Fatmata and her mother touched the body of their dead relation. The mother died while she was being taken to a health centre and Fatmata was in the vehicle with her.

As one of the MSF workers noted - it was quite hard for the poor girl with no one around to comfort her. She was alone and in a place she was not familiar with - people covered in strange-looking suits. It was too much for her. Poor girl - she died.Their four children - the looks on their face shows they still have to come to terms with what had been going on.

There was the case of Kadiatu and her husband Fallah. It was Kadiatu who first started complaining of fever conditions, vomiting and frequent visits to the toilet. Worried relations contacted health workers who came and took Kadiatu away. She looked in a bad way but it would seem that with proper treatment, her own body's immune system was encouraged to build up and fight the invading horror. From a listless and helpless individual, Kadiatu became a symbol of hope that all need not be lost when one is tested positive for the killer virus.

Husband Fallah is seen and heard explaining to the health workers who came to remove Kadiatu to the treatment centre that she could have contracted Ebola from his father who had already succumbed to the disease. Kadiatu was the one who was trying to make the poor man comfortable before he passed on to the great beyond and it was she who touched the body of the man before and after death wiping off fluids that were pouring from his body. Kadiatu and the rest of the family did not know just how much risk they were taking because of a lack of knowledge of the ravages of Ebola - a new killer that was unknown in that part of the country.

They knew about the deadly Lassa fever, knew of typhoid fever as did the health delivery workers who, unfortunately did not know about the Ebola virus until too late after the beast had cut large swathes of territory in its path. This was spurred on by travellers who did not know they were carrying the virus, who actually believed that the feverish feelings would soon pass off after consumption of herbs and other medications that had worked in the past!!!

This Channel Four story highlights what we have been calling for all the time. The need for immediate and rapid response to the crisis as seen from the viewpoint of the victim. When a person gets inflicted, the first thing he/she wants would be an atmosphere of assurances, speedy treatment with fluids given to replace those lost by victims who could not hold on to whatever liquid they take through the mouth. This requires IV treatment and for this to be done we need to have trained health delivery workers, properly staffed holding centres and most of all food and nutrients supervised by nutritionists who would know what amount the victim would need to have as the process of recovery gets into top gear.

We often hear, quite sadly of health delivery workers getting attacked as they try to help suspected victims and more often than not would come the avalanche of criticisms that attacking health workers is barbaric. While all would agree that such attacks are uncalled for - please spare a thought for those who carry out such attacks. They could have been set up by so-called opinion leaders who are always in the background. These instigators would not dare put their names or faces forward as there could be some hidden agenda for getting people to attack these health centres. Politicians have been known in the past to instigate such moves as we witnessed when family planning was first formally introduced in Sierra Leone. There were politicians who, in the security of their constituencies, would tell ordinary folks that the whole exercise was aimed at decimating the population!!!A recovering Kadiatu identifies their children captured on film.

We have just seen a Voice of America report which paints a sad picture of the Ebola situation in another area of the north - Makeni where "Dozens of very sick people sat on the floor in an empty university building in central Sierra Leone. They waited in filthy conditions. With the nearest treatment center a 16-hour drive away in Kailahun, there is no way to treat the sick, despite the likelihood they are infected with Ebola. According to Osman Bah, the Makeni government hospital director, Ebola cases have spiked in recent weeks. “More than 100, 150 cases, because we have sent 56 patients to Kailahun,” he said. “This morning we have had more than 100-110 patients.”

This university complex is being used as a makeshift holding facility because the sick people have nowhere else to go. Highly contagious patients lie in the open. One woman sat on the floor, too sick to stand. Other victims huddled together on beds. One young child was laying alone. Medical staff at the containment center have little training or experience dealing with Ebola. Protective equipment is inadequate. One makeshift ward was empty. Beds were filthy. Twenty-five confirmed Ebola patients left for Borders treatment center in Kailahun one recent night. Four died during the 16-hour journey."

Conditions at this holding centre in Makeni show that there's a need for all such holding centres to have testing components as well as treatment centres for those who are positive. Kailahun is quite a long way off and we hope that the medical teams from the UK, the US, Cuba, China and other countries would help in setting up such centres in each district that would ease the pressure on Kailahun and Kenema as we had, in the past, suggested.

Let us continue to pray that we succeed in this fight against Ebola but as we continue to stress - prayers should go hand in hand with practical solutions as to how the scourge is to be contained. Prayers should go hand in hand with positive and common sense in a country where the road to Kailhaun is a death sentence for patients. Victims must be given the first available emergency care where they are proved positive for the deadly scourge with the necessary measures put in place. Please do not subject victims to long road journeys that can last anything from six to ten hours. It is like a death sentence aimed at prolonging their agony before death. Let us pray and do something positive.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002