Push Comes To Shove!
Now and again, the press has been highlighting the general derelict sanitary conditions affecting the nation as a whole but did not bear fruits as the citizenry and the government neglected the calls for cleaning the environments we live. Today the Cholera outbreak has taken the four corners of the country with 12,456 cases, killing over 220 people and leaving the general public and health-stakeholders in panic.
Initially, the Health Ministry and some Health Organizations strongly rebuked the notion of Cholera outbreak or epidemic by some well-meaning Sierra Leoneans.
Now that push has come to shove, the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma on August 17 declared a ‘Public Health Emergency’ in the country, resulting to the hatching of the ‘Presidential Task Force on Cholera’ at State House. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), World Health Organization (WHO), DFID and many other stakeholders are relentlessly making all efforts to put this epidemic under control. The Health Coalition Organization was calling on Government to declare a two-day general cleaning exercise in the entire country, and as push has come to shove, two days of cleaning exercise is not enough for a country that has been staying unclean for over a long period. Cleaning of the environment must be on a daily basis to avoid epidemics and other diseases.
The United Nation’s statistics on the cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone as of August 21 revealed that the situation on the ground remains “critical” with 203 deaths and 11,000 cases reported so far. The public has been sensitized on what to do when affected and what to do to prevent being attacked by this menace called cholera by all and sundry is a good step.
The treatment for cholera is free of charge in all government health facilities and cholera treatment centers around the country. It is sane to prevent than to cure, so people must embark on washing their hands after using the toilet, wash your hands before handling food items, cover food items, drink safe water, wash fruits and vegetables properly before eating etc. It is all about wash! wash! wash!
Considering the prevention and minimization of this epidemic, one must take the poor people as the very vulnerable. The wharfs, (Kroo-bay, Mo wharf, Susan’s Bay, Oku wharf, Banana water and Government wharf etc.) are crammed with overcrowded zinc-shack abodes with no toilet facilities, no pure drinking water, and the worst sanitary environment the eyes can meet. These people are poor, cannot afford decent living conditions, are also people of the universe, and need to survive. In order to eradicate further cholera outbreaks, the plight of these people needs consideration, as they are not isolated from the rest of the people.
Our markets are in very bad shape in terms of sanitation and are where we purchase basic food items every day. The blatant truth is that our market places are a disgrace to good sanitation and health. Taking a closer look at Dove-Court Market that receives almost every local food items from the provinces, is just like a waste deposit area (bormeh). Flies are in their thousands humming around waste and cockroaches are like gladiators on the offensive while the wreak of defecation of both humans and animals fill the atmosphere to qualify Dove-Cut as a laboratory for the production of the Cholera Virus. At Dove-Court piled garbage could be seen as high as 12 feet and few feet away are market women selling their goods mainly food stuffs. Go to the King Jimmy market and you will discover almost the same scenario while those not mention are also not in proper sanitary conditions.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, City Council, Health Organizations, Stakeholders and especially the ordinary people of Sierra Leone need to brace up and fight the cholera epidemic by all means necessary.
Health is wealth, and cleanliness is next to Godliness.
By E. Awotelli-Cole
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