No doubt, the Ebola outbreak continues to dominate the news all over the media and public places from markets to Ataya bases.
Granted that the State Of (Health) Emergency has specific guidelines, but I am sure nothing stops any citizen from suggesting further creative ways to check the spread of the virus.
I listened to two musicians, Steady Bongo and Makie, on 98.1’s Good Morning Salone last week, talking about music and the musician’s role in the sensitization.
What is very encouraging right now is that the sheer number of songs on the Ebola Virus is so refreshing.
The two artists suggested that one effective way of getting the Ebola messages across is through open air musical shows on Ebola during the day from community to community.
Actually I am not too sure but I think the last time I checked the ban on gathering does not preclude gatherings on account of sensitization.
So one can actually interpret that part of the Emergency regulations that musicians may perform sensitization songs on Ebola live at football fields during day time with people spaced out to avoid touching.
We all know the average Sierra Leone likes music and dance. These are ways of getting information across especially for a predominantly illiterate population. Seeing our own very Sierra Leonean Artists on stage, singing their Ebola songs will indeed send the real messages.
Music and smiles are perhaps two major things that have no ethnic and linguistic barriers. Just look along the streets where music is played at shops and you will find even mad guys dancing and feeling good.
Get this straight, using music and dance does not in any way trivialize the seriousness of the scourge, rather it brings the messages to all and sundry.
Now let us do some analysis. If our problem is touching, then we have something really tough coming. I say so particularly for Freetown where we have teaming young persons who are found all over the place trying to eke out a living of some sought. Each time I go to Freetown Central, I happen to pass through PZ area and I see frightening body touching with some actually hugging and having on scanty sleeveless sweaty bodies. Others continue to shake hands in the most sophisticated body touching styles. If you like you can go to Ataya Bases, Belgium, Sweissy and many other areas where youths in the city do business. Go to Abacha Street or Guard Street and others.
Recently when the National Electoral Commission held two Paramount Chieftaincy elections in the Port Loko District, it generated a lot of criticism as in disregard for the Emergency Provisions.
On the other side, imagine those chiefdoms not having substantive Chiefs for god knows how long. Those events were localized. But musicians disseminating messages on the dreaded Ebola is definitely going to add enough value to the sensitization efforts that various Bodies are doing.
A lot of people have been counting the economic impact of the Ebola and its emergency regulations. Yes these measures are necessary just so as to help check the spread of Ebola. However we should admit that no matter how much precaution we take people will perforce be unwittingly touching. We move in overloaded vehicles, never mind the plea of authorities for the contrary. I must say it is a difficultly dicey situation. You remember at the height of the Rebel war, Humanitarian Organizations wanted to reach people held behind rebel lines to give them food and other basic necessities. Many people wanted this to be done without the rebels getting the food themselves. This was tough because the civilians were held by their rebel captives who have full control over them. At the time the ICRC was prepared to go behind rebel lines and attend to the civilians. Well the debate moved on and on. We have the same dilemma right now about avoiding touching but at the same time need to reach our people on the Ebola messages. I mean every nook and cranny.
I am making a case for concerts with Ebola songs, not because I want people to merry, but because it is much easier for messages to go through songs.
Culturally, our people are more receptive to messages through music than just megaphone talking.
I particularly think a set of people who have lost faith in their politicians for example, may not listen to the messages from their own very representatives.
With the musicians, most of whom are considered celebrities, people prefer them as neutral and genuine compatriots.
I think the inhabitants of a village gathering at the village field to listen to songs bordering on their very existence, will definitely touch too minimal compared to those going to a market like Abacha Street or Dove Cot.
To all this argument, there is this element of sponsorship.
I think musicians should be sponsored to do concerts. Say four groups can go on tour, each handling three districts each and then they all combine to do the Western Area one. Definitely these tours could be sponsored by the various Members of Parliament for the districts that the musicians tour. I really think it will work without exposing the populace to Ebola.
The other angle here will be laying to rest the controversy over the MPs themselves doing the sensitization themselves. Having said this, I really think our MPs should be given much more respect than what is currently obtaining in our media.
Granted, that some of them betray their very constituents but that fact remains that they are their representatives.
This thing can be quite simple; Let the MPs outsource the sensitization to musicians. What we should avoid is authorities going ahead and expending public funds without consultations, but only come back to the people after expending all the money.
Accountability is not only about money. It is a process through which commitments are made to and balances the needs of stakeholders in decision-making and activities, and deliver against this commitment. Accountability has the following dimensions: transparency, participation, learning, evaluation and feedback.
Like so many people agree, the sensitization should take another level and that level should be led by our musicians. They did it for Peace; they definitely can do it for our health. At this point I wish to thank all musicians who have so far made individual sacrifices to fight Ebola. Government please give them some boost to take the fight to the next positive level.
If we want our messages to go live and far, let’s put the musicians on Ebola Tours.
In these modern times, we are challenged to describe what has changed, not what was done!
By Ben Cambayma
Thursday September 04, 2014