''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 4

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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Wednesday August 6, 2014 - Time to stop the rhetoric and concentrate minds and action on tackling the ravages of the deadly Ebola disease. Communities in Sierra Leone on the verge of getting wiped out, if not already. Time to ask the international community for help in setting up treatment and testing centres.

The World Health Organisation has begun a two-day emergency meeting in Geneva to decide, among others, whether the Ebola scourge has spread wide and far enough to be declared an international emergency requiring international response. What further evidence the world body is looking for we do not know given the fact that the number of deaths in the three main affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has gone over the eight hundred mark with airlines like British Airways, BA, and Emirates suspending operations to and from the affected countries.

Even though BA says its a temporary suspension that is to last until the end of this month, it is not lost on us that having taken out all its international staff from the countries concerned, this is a warning sign to the various governments that the outbreak could well be getting out of control.

One CNN report quotes a health worker in Sierra Leone as saying that -

'Sierra Leone is not able to deal with this outbreak', adding - "Anja Wolz, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, spoke to CNN on Tuesday from an Ebola facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. "I think that the government and the ministry of health here in Sierra Leone is not able to deal with this outbreak. We need much more help from international organizations -- as WHO, as CDC, as other organizations -- to come to support the government," Wolz said.

"Still we have unsafe burials; people who are doing the burial without disinfection of the body; still we have patients who are hiding themselves; still we have patients or contacts of patients who are running away because they are afraid."

We would appeal that you kindly exercise patience and listen through the interview with Anja Wolz so that you will understand the magnitude of the scourge and how communities not used to such a disease get wiped out because of a lack of awareness and how customary practices like the washing of bodies of the dead help to spread the disease.

It is a real tragedy. Time to call for, not just the money, which the rat and his cronies are more interested in, but the equipment and the expertise as well as the chemicals needed to combat the spread.

Government officials and their various praise singers can deliver all the best sound bytes they can manufacture but what is needed, more than ever, is to have a new drawing board that looks at the situation in situ and to devise ways of containing the outbreak having in mind cultural practices that will have to be taken into consideration as well as packaging the appropriate messages that would make people trust government officials.

The government of Sierra Leone has yet to define and explain the role of treatment centres, testing sites and laboratories making sure that these much-needed areas are fully equipped and staffed. And then, there is the question of logistics - how do you get the affected to treatment centres that are hundreds of miles away from where the disease is contracted.

The rat, using a helicopter, took two days to get to Kailahun - and so we ask - how long would it take for a patient in Moyamba, Makeni, Bonthe or Pujehun to get to Kailahun given the poor transportation system that abounds?

We would humbly suggest that testing as well as treatment centres be set up in all the major towns and that they be staffed by properly trained health workers, not by soldiers whose training is far removed from what is now needed.

Pleading for funds is not the immediate answer - what is needed are the facilities that would increase the confidence of the people that the task at hand is not just another money-making and sharing exercise.

Given the fact that two of the main countries - Liberia and Sierra Leone are just trying to get back on their feet after years of devastating war that saw the destruction of many health and allied centres, we would urge the international community to help with mobile treatment and testing centres as well as having hundreds of well-motivated health workers able and willing to face the challenges posed by this terrible disease.

The strike by health workers at the Kenema government hospital after a number of their colleagues passed away points to the fact that the hospital in that part of the country is just not properly equipped and that more needs to be done to beef up that facility as well as having MSF taking over the operations at the Kenema government hospital.

The Nigeria-based This Day has this story - "A former government minister in Sierra Leone said on Tuesday that he has lost nine members of his family to the Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa. Lansana Nyallah told state television the dead included his brothers and sisters in the eastern village of Daru, at the epicentre of the outbreak.

"To those who still believe that Ebola does not exist, please take heed," the former youth and education minister told the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation. "Nine members of my family including my brothers and sisters are now dead from the virus," said Nyallah, who was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle last year after several years in President Ernest Bai Koroma's government.

"One of them was an imam who was also a radio journalist working for a community radio station in Daru," he said. "Our house is now empty as no one lives there," he added."

However all is not lost, according to the report - "This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. "It will take many months, and it won't be easy, but Ebola can be stopped," he said. "We know what needs to be done."

The United States is planning to send 50 health experts to West Africa to help contain the outbreak, which President Barack Obama addressed in remarks Tuesday, saying the citizens of the affected countries are in Americans' thoughts and prayers. Frieden said the 50 experts from the CDC will work to combat the outbreak and help implement stronger systems to fight the disease."

Another international news outlet Al Jazeera carries an article in which key Ebola specialists have called for experimental drugs to be used that will help them stop the deadly tide. It may look like groping in the dark, but there could be a valid explanation given the spread of the scourge -

"Three of the world's leading Ebola specialists have called for experimental drugs and vaccines to be offered to people in West Africa, where a vast outbreak of the deadly disease is raging in three countries. Noting that American aid workers who contracted the disease in Liberia were given an unapproved medicine before being evacuated back to the United States, the specialists - including Peter Piot, who co-discovered Ebola in 1976 - said Africans affected by the same outbreak should get the same chance.

Piot, David Heymann and Jeremy Farrar, all influential infectious disease professors and respectively directors of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, and the Wellcome Trust, said there were several antiviral drugs, monoclonal antibodies and vaccines under study for possible use against Ebola."

In another development one report says Spain is to send a specially-equipped air force plane to Liberia to evacuate a priest who has contracted the disease - "Spain's government said on Wednesday (Aug 6) it will send an air force plane to Liberia to fly an elderly Spanish missionary infected with Ebola back home for treatment. "This news lifts my spirits, it's great, I am very happy, it is worth fighting," the 75-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Miguel Pajares, told the online edition of daily Spanish newspaper ABC by telephone.

Pajares tested positive for Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia where he has worked for the past seven years, Spanish aid organisation Juan Ciudad ONG said on Tuesday. Since breaking out earlier this year, the tropical virus has claimed almost 900 lives and infected more than 1,603 people across west Africa. The other cases have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, which on Wednesday confirmed five new cases of Ebola in Lagos and a second death from the virus. Spain has equipped a military Airbus A310 for a medical evacuation and is to send the aircraft shortly to the West African nation to retrieve the missionary, a Defence Ministry spokesman said. "As soon as it is ready it will leave," the spokesman told AFP.

The Airbus A310, based at Madrid's Torrejon military air base, was equipped overnight and a military medical team has been trained for the operation, the spokesman said. Spain's health ministry said no decision had been taken on where the priest would be treated. Madrid's La Paz hospital, reportedly a possible destination, said it had not received confirmation that it would be treating him. The priest has been in quarantine at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia, along with five other missionaries, since the death on Saturday of the hospital's director from Ebola. Pajares has worked in Liberia for over five decades."

On today's emergency meeting of the WHO in Geneva, the French news agency AFP reports -

"The World Health Organization on Wednesday began a two-day emergency meeting on west Africa's Ebola epidemic, with the UN agency deciding whether to declare it an international crisis. The closed-door session is tasked with ruling whether the outbreak constitutes what is known in WHO-speak as a "public health emergency of international concern."

Taking the form of a telephone conference between senior WHO officials, representatives of affected countries, and experts from around the globe, the meeting is not expected to made its decision public until Friday. To date, the WHO has not issued global-level recommendations—such as travel and trade restrictions—related to the outbreak which began in Guinea and has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. But the scale of concern is underlined by the WHO emergency session itself—such consultations are relatively rare."

A Reuters news agency report from Liberia paints a very disturbing picture - of relations dumping in the streets, the bodies of those who had succumbed to the Ebola web of death.

"Relatives of Ebola victims in Liberia defied government orders and dumped infected bodies in the streets as West African governments struggled to enforce tough measures to curb an outbreak of the virus that has killed 887 people. In Nigeria, which recorded its first death from Ebola in late July, authorities in Lagos said eight people who came in contact with the deceased U.S. citizen Patrick Sawyer were showing signs of the deadly disease.

The outbreak was detected in March in the remote forest regions of Guinea, where the death toll is rising. In neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the outbreak is now spreading fastest, authorities deployed troops to quarantine the border areas where 70 percent of cases have been detected. Those three countries announced a raft of tough measures last week to contain the disease, shutting schools and imposing quarantines on victim's homes, amid fears the incurable virus would overrun healthcare systems in one of the world's poorest regions.

In Liberia's ramshackle ocean-front capital Monrovia, still scarred by a 1989-2003 civil war, relatives of Ebola victims were dragging bodies onto the dirt streets rather than face quarantine, officials said.

Information Minister Lewis Brown said some people may be alarmed by regulations imposing the decontamination of victims' homes and the tracking of their friends and relatives. With less than half of those infected surviving the disease, many Africans regard Ebola isolation wards as death traps.

"They are therefore removing the bodies from their homes and are putting them out in the street. They're exposing themselves to the risk of being contaminated," Brown told Reuters.

"We're asking people to please leave the bodies in their homes and we'll pick them up."

Brown said authorities had begun cremating bodies on Sunday, after local communities opposed burials in their neighborhoods, and had carried out 12 cremations on Monday.

Meanwhile, in the border region of Lofa County, troops were deployed on Monday night to start isolating effected communities there. "We hope it will not require excessive force, but we have to do whatever we can to restrict the movement of people out of affected areas," Brown said."

Now Nigeria's Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu has declared a state of national health emergency in the face of the disease beginning to spread its tentacles in the country with a start in the commercial capital Lagos. The WHO's latest update states the number of persons dying from the outbreak has gone above the 900 mark.


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