7, 2016 - One year ago today, the World Health
Organisation, the WHO, officially declared Sierra Leone
Ebola Virus Disease-free - a scourge that left
nearly four thousand dead and many thousands affected by
Mention Ebola Virus
Disease and many will recall the horrors of what was
visited upon the people of Sierra Leone - a horror that
the country was not prepared for even though Liberia and
Guinea were experiencing what was initially thought to
be "a strange killer disease".
It was indeed strange in
Sierra Leone for never before had the country
experienced the Ebola Virus Disease in its known history
and it was this ignorance of the scourge and its ravages
that saw many health workers and other Sierra Leoneans
hit by the disease at their wits end. It was a horror
that caught many by surprise - a horror that fed on the
immune system of its victims reducing them to unprepared
wrecks as the disease readied them for death.
concerned relations who offered comfort, wiping away
body fluids caught the disease too and so were families,
communities and whole settlements wiped out in an orgy
of confusion, death and destruction the likes of which had never
been experienced any time in Sierra Leone.
Initial reports by some concerned
journalists that the disease was in Sierra Leone, having
crossed through our porous borders were dismissed by a
hapless government and its mouth pieces that such
reports were not only unpatriotic, but that the authors
were working in collusion with
enemies of the state.
In Kenema, where the government hospital has had some
experience in dealing with another virus disease carried
by rats, the Lassa fever menace, health workers at this
health facility actually believed, at the initial phase that
they could have been presented with another variation of
Lassa fever and put in place measures which had been tried
and tested in dealing with Lassa only to realise on
their death beds that this was something more vicious
than Lassa Fever. Those who offered comfort to
the afflicted were also swept into early graves by the
unrelenting onslaught of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Among the many health workers to be
killed was an experienced Sierra Leonean doctor who knew
about the ravages of Lassa fever and was beginning to
come to terms with the emergence of the Ebola Virus
Disease. He and other health workers worked around the
clock to comfort the afflicted and face the new terror
unleashed upon Sierra Leoneans.
At one stage
Dr Sheikh Umar Khan decided to follow advisory principles and had
himself tested for the virus and even though he was
declared free of an infection, something kept nagging
him that all was not well and decided to have another
Horror upon horrors, he was found to have
contracted the disease and thus began a battle to save
the life of a dedicated Sierra Leonean doctor - a battle
that was lost even though after delays to have him flown
to the United States for specialised treatment, he
finally made it there but alas the battle was already
lost and the Ebola Virus Disease had claimed a its first
known medical doctor in Sierra Leone.
At least ten more
doctors succumbed to the ravages of the disease among
them Dr Olivette Buck and Dr Victor
Willoughby. Other Sierra Leoneans who died, including
health workers and associated support staff were close
to the four thousand mark.
We hope lessons have now been learnt
and that the machinery to tackle such emergencies are
now in place that would be quite unlike the lack of
direction and preparedness of the rat and his cabal
whose health minister at the time one Miatta Kargbo
failed to appreciate the enormity of the problem. We do
hope that the ALFAKA Foundation hurriedly manufactured
by then Information Minister Alhaji Abuja of the
pilgrimage fame would now rise to the occasion and
account to the people the role of his so-called
At a time when leadership was to have
come from the rulers at State House, all the people got
were conflicting phrases that added to the confusion
with the rat at first refusing to fly to Kenema to see the
situation for himself so he could be better advised.
Those feeding fat from his droppings were in full armour
advising that the rat, as first citizen should not
expose himself to the situation in Kenema lest he
catches the virus!!!
Allow us to take you back to one
article in the
Sierra Leone Telegraph
and this should remind us of the incompetence of the rat
and his administration to tackle the Ebola Virus
"The government of Sierra Leone led by
president Koroma fell far short of taking preventive and
proactive steps to protect its citizens, until the virus
had spread across the country, causing hundreds of
death. This tragedy could have been prevented.
even though the Ebola virus was first reported in Guinea
and Liberia, Sierra Leone now has over 500 reported
cases of Ebola, with more deaths recorded than Guinea
where it originated, according to WHO.
that the Sierra Leonean public would like the APC
administration to answer are;
how did we get to this
stage, where we now have more deaths than our neighbours
Guinea, where it all began?
Why is it that, when the virus entered the eastern
border town of Kailahun, did the government not act
until it had spread across the country?
Why did the
government not provide adequate equipment and resources
promptly, and in time to front line staff that had put
their lives at risk, to save others?
Whereas the Gambian administration had
closed its borders, even without the presence of Ebola,
Soulay Daramy, who is president Koroma’s representative
in the Gambia, issued a press statement to assure the
Gambia government that Sierra Leone did not have Ebola,
and therefore closing the border was unnecessary.
entered the APC health minister – Miatta Kargbo, who
When summoned to parliament to make a statement after
the first fatality from the Ebola virus in Eastern
Sierra Leone, she was incredibly insensitive.
statement to parliament Miatta Kargo blamed the woman’s
death on her sexual intimacy with her boyfriend, who was
a carrier of the virus. Her insensitivity added more
distress to the grieving deceased family.
the APC foreign minister Samura Kamara, who of all the
ministers should have known better that virus of this
kind are not localised, but migratory. Ebola travels
from one country to another through travellers.
What did Samura do? He issued a statement denying that the Ebola
virus had impacted on Sierra Leone tourism. He did not
provide any evidence to support his assertion."
As Sierra Leone observes a whole year
Ebola Virus Disease free, let us vow and pray that never
again would our beloved country be smitten with such a
Let us continue to pray for those who
were struck and yet survived,
abandoned to their fate as
the rat refuses to acknowledge their presence and to
alleviate their suffering.
Let us pray that those who
benefited from the resources that should have been used
to fight the scourge but who saw it as a way of creating
wealth over the misery of the people get their just
reward on earth.
Even the rat, at one stage admitted
that those who got rich at the expense of the suffering
of the masses were living on blood money and may the
blood of the perished and the survivors fight them to
the very end - that they may not enjoy the fruits of
their heartless venture.
On a day like this, any serious
government would take a look at the plight of survivors,
many of whom are still living with the virus with some
complaining of blindness and aches and pains all over
On a day like this, the government should have
declared its intention of paying all the monies owed to
volunteers who risked their lives in putting a halt to
On a day like this Sierra Leoneans should
feel a sense of belonging - that they have a government
who cares and would put in place modalities that would
address the needs of survivors whose life is akin to the
On a day like this any responsible
government should be talking less and doing more.
day like this, those who enriched themselves at the
expense of the dead and survivors of the scourge should
be made to pay amounts owed as revealed in the
of the Auditor General.
Action to make the lives of
survivors bearable is what is needed now.
We hope that the new deal involving
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in
Sierra Leone really targets true and genuine Ebola Virus
According to the UNDP - "Battling
Ebola was horrific but more terrifying was the economic
hardship after having lost everything. The Kallon family
are one of many beneficiaries of a United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) initiative that seeks to
sustainably restore livelihoods of the Ebola survivors
in Kailahun, Kenema, Moyamba, Port Loko, Bombalili,
Tonkolili, and Koinadugu districts.
Two thousand five hundred out of a
total of four thousand five hundred Ebola survivors in
Sierra Leone would benefit from this joint UNDP and UN
Women project titled Social Rehabilitation and Payment
to Ebola Survivors.
The project aims to restore and
improve the livelihoods of Lahai and 2,500 other Ebola
survivors from their normal activities through the
provision of cash transfer, skills training in
micro-entrepreneurship, farming, livestock and technical
skills such carpentry, tailoring, etc as well as a
start-up grant upon completion of their preferred
courses. The Kallon’s story is unique.
It is one of the very few instances in
which the disease infected an entire family and all of
The family plans to use the cash to
meet school expenses for the girls and to support Mrs.
Kallon to start a small business.
UNDP is building on its experience of
digital financial service inclusion with innovate mobile
money payment for Ebola response workers project in
Sierra Leone. Financial inclusion of the unbanked and
rural communities is an important factor that can
contribute to sustainable development."
In London, an oil painter has started
an exhibition depicting and revisiting his experiences
while visiting Sierra Leone.
"Tim Benson, VPROI,
presents an exhibition of portraits painted of Ebola
survivors and those that cared for them he encountered
in his ongoing residency in Sierra Leone. Educated at
Glasgow School of Art and Byam Shaw School of Art from
1998-2001, contemporary artist has received
recognition with his election as Vice President of the
Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
As a practised
figurative artist Tim not only creates a distinguishable
likeness of a subject but moreover evokes the sitter’s
character and mood. He is never satisfied with simple
representation, rather concentrating on bringing to his
work an emotive and often visceral quality. You can make
a donation to support those in Sierra Leone working with
and living with Ebola, here and find out more about the
King's Sierra Leone Partnership.