UNMEER boss commends SLAJ Yellow Ribbon campaign
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Saturday, in Freetown, launched a Yellow Ribbon campaign to mobilize the population for the Ebola fight. “The yellow ribbon symbolizes a commitment of individuals, groups and institutions taking action to end Ebola in Sierra Leone and hopefully in the region. It symbolizes a personal commitment to working towards getting rid of Ebola by changing dangerous behaviours,” said Kelvin Lewis, President of SLAJ, at the event.
The Ebola Crisis Manager for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Amadu Kamara, commended the journalists and other Sierra Leoneans for leading the Ebola fight. “We have reached a critical stage in the Ebola fight. We have capacities in place. The only thing left for us to do now is to, as Sierra Leoneans, talk to one another, to our neighbours, our communities, that there should be no complacency.”
In addition, Kamara said: “We have to try to win this battle before the rainy season sets in, because the rains have their own challenges.”
Kamara referred to journalists as “comrades in arms against Ebola,” and underscored the regional dimension of Ebola. “We may end Ebola in Sierra Leone but until Liberia and Guinea are free of the virus, we cannot declare victory.”
Prior to the Yellow Ribbon launch, Kamara visited SLAJ offices and told its executive members that efforts must be mobilized to end the epidemic before the rains set in (April or May). “With the rains we might have a spike in diseases such as malaria and typhoid, and these have the same symptoms as Ebola. It will be more complicated if we have to deal with a high number of malaria cases that people suspect are Ebola.”
Paolo Conteh, the Chief Executive Officer of Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre, said that the Yellow Ribbon campaign demonstrated the journalists’ commitment to the war on Ebola. “People are beginning to relax,” he said, adding, “Let’s not get complacent. We are not going to give up. We will win this war.”
Conteh referred to the recent increase in Ebola transmission in Aberdeen, central Freetown, as evidence that people were becoming less worried by the virus. A neighbourhood in Aberdeen was locked down earlier in the week following reports that six persons in the community had been infected with the virus.
Professor Monte Jones, a Special Adviser to President Enerst Koroma, said that the spike in Aberdeen shows that the road to zero will be bumpy. “In 1976, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when they had Ebola, they experienced the same surge towards the end of the epidemic. We are going through that same pattern in Sierra Leone.”
Jones said that the virus, which peaked last October and November when there were between 80 and 111 infections a day, was now recording mostly single digits. He thanked international partners, including UNMEER, “for coming to our aid.”
Jones, however, stressed the need to reinvigorate the enthusiasm of all Sierra Leoneans. “We are no longer seeing the buckers of chlorinated water in shops, supermarkets and other places. People are becoming tired and stubborn.”
There was a symbolic tying of ribbon on a cotton tree by Kamara, Conteh, Jones and Freetown City Mayor, Bode Gibson.
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