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Diaspora should compliment efforts to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone

Diaspora should compliment efforts to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone

Last week, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Margaret Chan warned that the current outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa could be catastrophic if it is not quickly brought under control. In fact, at present, the virus is said to be spreading faster than efforts to contain it.

Although a lot has been done, this development clearly point out the need for more action to find ways of stopping Ebola which to date has claimed over 728 lives in the Mano River basin.

Clearly, the governments of the three affected countries have stepped up their efforts to arrest the spread of the virus and at an Ebola special summit in Conakry last week, the Presidents of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea agreed to partition their common border areas into a quarantined zone. Additionally, the three leaders and representative of WHO also launched a $100 million campaign to bring under control the outbreak of the virus in West Africa.

Together with these collective measures, our Sierra Leone government has been working overtime to fight the deadly outbreak. In a broadcast to the nation last week President Koroma pledged to use whatever means within the reach of his government to overcome the spread of the virus for as he put it “extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures.”


The Koroma led government has since declared a state of public health emergency, banning public meetings for at least 60 days, except those for education about the virus, and cancelled oversea trips for top officials. The president also cancelled his planned visit to Washington for a three-day summit of about 50 African leaders with President Barack Obama.

As President Koroma clearly put it “the disease is beyond the scope of any one country or community to defeat.” This fight should therefore not be left on the shoulders of our governments alone. This is what brings me to the point I want to make here: those of us living and working in the Diaspora should step forward and compliment international efforts to support our governments back home, borrowing the words of President Koroma, in this “extraordinary fight.” In fact we have already been feeling the effects – I have heard of Sierra Leoneans here in Germany cancelling summer holiday trips to the country and others having sleepless nights thinking of their families back home.

Our response should go beyond thinking about our loved ones! If I may put it directly we should help mobilize resources as quickly as possible to compliment those anti-Ebola actions back home. We have always stood close by our country and this time of emergency should not be different. Perhaps the only difference is that time is not on our side! We have to act now!

Our contributions through remittances since the turn of the millennium have been recognized as key to the socio economic development of especially sub-saharan Africa. For instance in 2003, the World Bank estimate of documented remittance flows to the region was about $ 4 billion. Through our social networks and several associations, we have times and again in the past been able to raise resources to support several projects back home whether they are schools, health centres or agricultural development.

Against the backdrop of the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Diasporans, through those social associations that have proved so effective, should act quickly and decisively to draw up a clear map on how to support our countries.

Cognizance of this fact, our diplomatic mission in Germany last week made contacts to all Sierra Leonean groups across the country to remind them of the seriousness and urgency of the situation, and to invite them to a meeting in Berlin to discuss possible areas of intervention.

“The purpose of the meeting is to pray for our nation and map out strategies as to how Sierra Leoneans in Germany could help promote the truth about the disease and mobilize resources including medical equipment to contribute to this national fight,” excerpts of the letter reads.

Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Germany, H.E Jongopie Siaka Stevens emphasized the importance of such a move by the embassy stressing that “Sierra Leone is confronted with a deadly virus and if we don’t act fast, it will ravage the entire nation and its people.”

To conclude, although there may be more, I want to summarize three possible ways the Diaspora could get involved in the combat action against Ebola:

Firstly and importantly, we have a key role to play in the education campaign. Most of us living in the Diaspora command very high respect from our friends and families back home. With those 5-10 Euro calling cards, we can frequently reach them in the cities, towns and villages and re-emphasized those messages of how the virus spreads and how to avoid it: when you experience headache or a fever, go to the health centre for a test. One can recover from Ebola if the infection is spotted early enough; don’t touch the corpse of those died from the virus; and lastly don’t eat bushmeat. They will listen to us!

Secondly, let us converge in our Sierra Leone Unions, Youth Groups, Kambia Descendant Unions and raise resources to support the anti-Ebola drive.

Thirdly, let us canvass support from our friends, neighbours and people who could support through our personal contacts whether in the work place or in our social rendezvous.

As Ambassador Stevens  affirmed  “Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad should stand united, with constant, concerted and integrated efforts in the fight against the killer disease.”

The time is now! Let’s join hands together to KICK OUT EBOLA!!!

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  • Ebola is a public health threat in Sierra-Leone

    The Ebola outbreak in Sierra-Leone and the Mano River Region as a whole represents the deadliest in history and this has once more showed the vulnerability of a weak health system in the affected regions.
    The few doctors and allied healthcare workers, who are in first line contact with the infected, have been the most vulnerable!
    Protective equipment for healthcare workers on the front line treating those with the Ebola virus infection is in some areas not available or insufficient!
    Not only hundreds of people have died or become infected, doctors including Dr. Sheik Umar Khan (unfortunately) and health care workers are also dying everyday!
    Serious deficiencies in the working conditions of national and international doctors and allied healthcare workers dealing with the Ebola virus in Sierra-Leone and the region as a whole have been highlighted by the World Medical Association, World Health Organization, UNICEF und MSF.

    So therefore, for us “medical Diasporans” who are ready to help bridge the huge human resources gap and thereby effectively contribute towards the collaborative efforts of our international colleagues, protection of all healthcare workers and those willing to travel to give their support is extremely crucial and of great importance.

    A concerned citizen

    Dr. Mariatu Turay-Rohde (MD, MSc. Public Health, Policy Advisor & Project Consultant)
    Berlin, Germany.

    9th August 2014

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