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Open Letter to President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron for more local participation in Ebola response

Open Letter to President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron for more local participation in Ebola response

Distinguished President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron,

I address this letter of appeal to you two distinguished gentlemen as you have taken the leads in Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively in the fight against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) without disrespect to all other well-wishers.  (Photo Francis H Lahai, author)

On behalf of myself and all those Sierra Leoneans and West Africans who believe in what we have seen so far as help for Ebola-ravaged countries of West Africa, we wish to thank the United States, the kingdom of UK, the Europeans, the Chinese and our African brothers who have so far offered to intervene and urgently help a needy people of west Africa through the following proclamations and commitments made:

  • The British Government has approved £100 Million and military personnel;
  • The World Bank has approved $28 Million in one instance and some smaller figures at another;
  • The US Congress has approved $500 Million from left over funds for the war in Afghanistan and 3000 military personnel;
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $50 Million;
  • The African Union, European Union and the African Development Bank added their financial support.
  • Many well-wishers and corporations like Sierra Rutile and London Mining in Sierra Leone donated hundreds of million leones, to name a few donations.
  • The People’s Republic of China has sent a medical team and provided $3Million;
  • The Cuban Republic has sent 164 medical doctors and technicians.
  • The list is truncated from State House web site.

These figures are all great, mind boggling for some of us and all these commitments of resources both capital and Human and the subsequent efforts are earmarked for Ebola eradication, control and prevention. As these are all goodwill to the people of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, we can only wish that God bless the providers and benefit the recipients (Sierra Leoneans, Liberians and Guineans).

The donors have determined these figures as being initial estimates. It would be missing the point if we kept quiet while all the action emanating from your funding was been mostly done by your countrymen alone. My appeal to all including GOSL is that a participatory method to include local NGOs, contractors and consultants be used in the programming of interventions and their execution, to ensure sustainability in the long term.

The World Bank, the United States of America and the UK are all firm believers in the RPA (Rural Participatory Approaches) for interventions and in the ownership of programmes. Knowing that for community programmes 80% of direct benefits to the recipient community constitutes a good measure of programme success; our fervent appeal is to be assured of at least 50% direct benefit to these countries, that is circa $300 Million in the form of medication, post-recovery support, sanitation and hygiene education, allowances to local social workers, infrastructure, vehicles, and training? We are afraid that the great Marines and UK Navy will cost so much that the Ebola sick will not have enough left over. Yet still it will be imputed that all of these funds were used up in West Africa in the fight against Ebola there. We need to all benefit as we have all sat at home (during the three days sensitization and quarantine of some persons) and lost income and production. Will there be enough MREs (Meal-Ready to Eat) to go round the country for locals, thereby leaving some American legacy? Will local contractors be used in the construction of centres and supply of fresh fish and vegetables? One young observer noted on AIR radio that she never knew the army could build. Was she referring to RSLAF or HM’s or USMC? I hope RSLAF is going to be involved in construction as well as part of capacity building and skills transfer activities.

This is a global war being fought against Ebola Virus Disease on West African soil, as evidenced by the number of military personnel involved in the battle. Our businesses are dead or dying; Our homes getting poorer and stressed, while awaiting a solution. We will be extremely grateful if in all fairness to the origin of Ebola that there is a Marshall Plan for West Africa. We cannot overemphasize this further, but he who has ears, let them hear as God whispers. As the recovery rate is about 30%, there are Ebola survivors daily coming out of hospitals and these traumatized persons need help. Some are orphans and others single parent, young women etc who have nowhere to turn to. This is where our NGOs (including mine, specializing in hygiene, sanitation and development can come in handy). The rehabilitation process should be simultaneous with the on-going healing, prevention and eradication mechanisms, while renewed vigour is placed on sanitation awareness and disease prevention to mitigate future recurrences of other diseases. Where and who should we send our projects to or apply to for participation?

We are hopeful that this is not asking much and that the solutions budgeted will be holistic enough to have an inclusive package for local NGOs, contractors and the army. I appeal that our NGOs are fully involved in psyco-social efforts and income generating activities as part of the recovery methods.

Francis H. Lahai, BEng, MBA, MSc
National Director, ACEDO and Environmental Health Specialist

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