24th July 2014
Republic of Sierra Leone.
Dear Mr. President,
Re: THE EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE OUTBREAK IN OUR NATION
I write as a citizen expressing my concern about the government’s response to the Ebola Virus disease (EVD) epidemic ravaging the population in Kailahun and Kenema, a concern held by many across the social, political and faith communities. Although I am fully cognizant of the resource deficit in our current economic situation, it is my belief that the government’s response has not been proportionate to the seriousness of the threat, the speed of the contagion, nor the public’s right to be fully informed of the strategy to combat the epidemic. I call upon the government to use its constitutional power to declare a state of emergency in the affected region, Eastern Province in order to contain the spread, to provide the most effective protective garments for all medical and scientific staff, and to provide accurate information to the public to dispel misinformation, encourage acceptance of medical help and allay panic.
Persistent questions asked
Mr. President, with the first outbreak reported in Kailahun, many people have come to question the decision to transfer the very first victims from Kailahun, a highly infected area, to Kenema, a previously low-risk area because the viral laboratory was there. This decision has exposed health workers and the general population to the disease and fuelled panic amongst the people. External agencies like the World Health Organisation have their own strategies but our health ministry must forcefully represent the dangers on the ground to these external agencies and not defer entirely to them in determining the best strategy for the country.
Mr. President, our country has overtaken the other Mano River nations in terms of new infections and the death toll, even though we were the last to experience an outbreak thus begging the question, is the government’s response to the emergency adequate to halt the epidemic?
With the death toll increasing exponentially, and the infection of key medical staff, health workers in the laboratory and treatment centre in Kenema, downed their tools, venting their frustration at the government’s inadequate response and demanding relocation of the treatment centre and provision of adequate protective gear as well as food for patients. The shock of the announcement of the infection of the key viral doctor leading the fight against the outbreak, Dr Khan, has re-echoed these questions and has cast a net of doubt on the Ministry’s overall strategy to address a health issue as serious as this.
National and robust response
Mr. President, the Ebola outbreak has exposed our weak and sinking health system lacking basic modern health techniques and preventive measures. Until now, there has not been a national response in tandem with the ravaging spree of this disease. While victims of the deadly scourge lack the dignity of traditional funeral rites and are hastily buried in polythene bags, many other Sierra Leoneans continue to face the risk of further spread of the virus until the Ministry of Health takes solid action and urgently implements defined and workable policies.
Mr. President, the need to declare public emergency in some parts of the country has reached tidal heights. The Constitution of Sierra Leone (Section 29) allows for the proclamation of public emergency in parts of the country. It is my view that public emergency in the affected region, Eastern Province will greet this outbreak with a proportionate cloud of seriousness. This will also prevent movement of people from high-risk (infected) to other parts of the country and allow for mobile units to be set-up in high-risk areas obviating transporting victims with the concomitant risks.
Mr. President, putting together a group of scientists closest to the infected areas to study the recent nature and viral patterns of Ebola would not only help in the current fight but would also help limit the potential for recurrence. Sierra Leoneans are afraid of the far-reaching, long-term effects on social and family lives. Healthy citizens are the best assets any nation can have. I therefore call upon the government to use its constitutional power to declare a state of public emergency in the affected region, Eastern Province in order to contain the spread, to provide the most effective protective garments for all medical and scientific staff, and to provide accurate information to the public to dispel misinformation, encourage acceptance of medical help and allay panic.
Mr. President, this epidemic could have a detrimental effect on development trends and blight our nation’s credentials as an emerging nation and a safe haven to do business if swift and robust measures are not employed.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the sentiments of my highest consideration.
Augustine S. Marrah esq
Tuesday July 29, 2014