''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 3

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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Sunday June 29, 2014 - Deadly Ebola virus ravages Sierra Leone. Total deaths still unknown as World Health Organisation fears the scourge could spread to neighbouring countries. With people confused about the symptoms and what should be done, the rat criminalises the scourge.

As true Christians prepare to head for places of worship to give thanks to the Almighty and Muslims start the holy month  of Ramadan, we urge all and sundry to pray for Sierra Leone. Indeed never before had the country been hit by such a deadly disease though there were warning signs in the air after Guinea became the epicentre of the disease. The spread of the deadly Ebola virus - map published by Daily Mail

Reports say that after the media and other concerned citizens expressed fears over our preparedness should the deadly plague use the porous borders to cross into Sierra Leone, the ministry of health is reported to have ordered the much-needed reagents/chemicals that would help in identifying whether those expressing the symptoms of Ebola were indeed victims or not.

The initial tests showed that those in fear were not positive, but as cross border movements increased with those affected by the disease crossed into Sierra Leone through ever porous borders, it was not long for health officials to confirm that indeed the deadly disease was in the country with deaths reported as victims who had no idea of the ravages of the scourge succumbed to the disease.

With pressure mounting on the government of the rat and the death toll rising, it came out with an announcement on Friday last week which effectively criminalises Ebola in a country where the necessary education of the people on the scourge was yet to be made countrywide.

There were reports that relations of the dead washed those bodies before burial with no protective clothing, that those diagnosed as Ebola-infected leaving isolation centres and others feeling abandoned by relations staggering into bushes to breath their last providing avenues for the further spread of the disease.

Ebola, according to health experts is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory. The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days. What we have in bold letters should be of great concern and worry to everyone and we would urge that men in areas harbouring the scourge be advised to take extra care given what we have now learnt from health experts.

From the symptoms described, it is quite easy to discern the challenges facing health workers in Sierra Leone where people living in small communities could never have heard of the disease nor would they be able to get in touch with health officials to help them out in suspected cases. And so when we saw this report on how  the government of the rat intends to combat the disease, we got even more worried - "Sierra Leone has warned it is a serious crime to shelter patients infected with the Ebola virus who are in hiding. The Health Ministry said several patients had discharged themselves from hospital in Kenema district, the heart of the country's outbreak."

The BBC adds - "Dr Shek Moar Khan, who is working with Ebola patients at Kenema government hospital, said his team met resistance when trying to inform people about the disease. Health workers have been trying to explain to people in the areas affected that Ebola "is not a mystery, but simply it is a disease that somebody can acquire, and if only they could listen appropriately to our advice, then we could break the chain of transmission", he said.

The question that should be considered is - why would patients discharge themselves from hospital? Have the authorities considered the social implications from the perspective of the affected and infected? We think not and we would request health workers to imagine being in an isolation ward where relations are prevented from getting close to their loved ones. We would urge them to take a second look and see the bigger picture of the atmosphere of fear the outbreak has already created as well as having to talk to and deal with a health official who is all covered up and masked. It creates panic and increases fears of looming death.Health minister Miatta Kargbo now has to face a more formidable challenge than issuing out cheeky orders to doctors to clean the Connaught because of a Tony Blair visit. We wish her luck and every success.

And we would dare to ask - just how much support are the victims receiving? Are there provisions for their daily requirements for food, nutrition and medication? What about logistics for the health workers and other staff of the health ministry? Simply put - are victims getting enough food for their frail bodies as well as the duty of care needed in such situations? Any counselling teams?

We would urge those brave workers who have to deal with victims and suspected victims to be trained in how to go about it using moral suasion and not the enforcement of a clearly flawed criminalisation regime as proposed by the government of the rat even as we wonder the legal basis of this action. Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for "drastic action" to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed almost 400 people, we do not think that the criminalisation of the disease is what the world body is thinking about.

We would urge the health and associated ministries as well as State House where the smoke and mirrors rat operates from to keep calm and take a good look at what obtains on the ground with a view to tackling what is clearly a challenge. The WHO has also noted - "It is the largest outbreak in terms of cases, deaths and geographical spread.There have been more than 600 cases in Guinea - where the outbreak started four months ago - and neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. Around 60% of those infected with the virus have died."

In what looks like a desperate bid to control the disease amid fears that countries like Mali, Guinea Bissau and others could be at risk, the WHO has convened a meeting in Ghana that is meant to put the cards on the table for a number of threatened countries. It is hoped that common sense would prevail and that the initial panic created by the government of the rat among a people uneducated about the horrors of the Ebola disease would be controlled.

The World Health Organisation states that - "As the number of deaths and cases of Ebola virus continues to rise in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization is warning that drastic action is needed. The World Health Organization has so far provided technical assistance through the deployment of over 150 multidisciplinary team of experts involved in a range of outbreak response activities such as surveillance, communication and social mobilization, infection control, logistics, data management.

Despite this, there has been significant increase in the number of daily reported cases and deaths of Ebola as well as newly affected districts over the last three weeks. As of 23 June 2014, the total cumulative number of cases reported was 635 out of which 399 died. This makes the on-going Ebola outbreak, the largest in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread.

“This is no longer a country specific outbreak but a sub-regional crisis that requires firm action by Governments and partners. WHO is gravely concerned of the on-going cross-border transmission into neighbouring countries as well as the potential for further international spread. There is an urgent need to intensify response efforts; to promote cross-border collaboration and information sharing of suspected cases and contacts in line with WHO guidelines and to mobilise all sectors of the community to ensure unhindered access to affected areas. This is the only way that the outbreak will be effectively addressed”, said Dr Luis Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

In an effort to interrupt further spread of this virus in the shortest possible time, the World Health Organization is convening a special meeting of Ministers of Health of eleven (11) countries and partners involved in the Ebola outbreak response in Accra, Ghana from 2-3 July 2014 to discuss the best way of tackling the crisis collectively as well as develop a comprehensive inter country operational response plan. Decisions taken at this meeting will be critical in addressing the current and future outbreaks.

What is now needed is a cool head and a strategy that would help those already struck down by the disease and those at risk. Let us not go the way of the headline of the UK Daily Mail that writes about a flesh-eating scourge.

Keep calm we say...please keep calm and do not criminalise nor politicise this new tragedy even though we are tempted to ask - Where are all the resources the rat used for his 2012 re-election campaign? Let's have them deployed including the helicopters.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002