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President Koroma Issues Stern Warning to Traditional and Religious Leaders

President Koroma Issues Stern Warning to Traditional and Religious Leaders

On a working visit to Port Loko, Bombali and Tonkolili districts over the weekend, President Ernest Bai Koroma issued a stern warning to traditional and religious leaders to take responsibility to halt the spread of the virus in their chiefdoms and districts. He said the country has a crisis that should be handled with all the seriousness it deserves and added that government in its efforts to improving the efficiency of handling the outbreak restructured the then Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC). “We are at war with terror; so we have to put in place military tactics to win this war with command and control structures at district level to be cascaded further at chiefdom level to halt the disease in its tracks.” He underscored the role of traditional leaders in the fight against Ebola and admonished against anyone who fails to abide by the precautions of the Health Ministry.

Although he acknowledged the fact that Ebola was threatening the country’s rich traditions, the president continued to admonish traditional and religious leaders to intensify sensitization among their people and to further abide by the safety measures set out by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and encouraged them to report to the nearest health centre when they are sick. “Don’t touch the sick or dead, report to the nearest health centre of any sick person. Don’t wash any corpse when you are not sure of what was the cause of death,” he warned, and furthered that Kailahun has done very well because of the bye-laws and the people are complying.” Whilst calling for the cooperation of traditional and religious leaders to scale up their efforts, he urged the chiefs to invoke the bye-laws and enforce compliance to break the chain of transmission.

President Koroma registered government’s commitment to increasing the number of treatment centers and increase lab capacities, but warned that if the attitude of people does not change “We will continue to work without results”. He stated that the British are constructing holding and treatment centers that will have their own laboratories in both Bombali and Port Loko districts and noted that the 110 bed capacity treatment centre funded by Addax Bioenergy at the Magbenteh Hospital in Makeni will be completed by 10th November, 2014, while the 100 bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Port Loko will be completed by the end of November. Meanwhile, the District Health Management Team (DHMT) is also constructing a holding and treatment centre in Port Loko; 15 bed holding centre for children, 40 bed holding area, and four units of 12 beds each totaling 48 bed treatment unit. The International Medical Corps (IMC) is also constructing a 100 bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Lunsar and another 100 bed ETU in Makeni with funds being provided by the British government, Irish Aid among others.

The International Medical Corps’ Hussein Ibrahim said a total of 100 beds of which 50 beds for confirmed cases and 50 beds for suspected, probable and convalescent cases will be completed by the end of November in Lunsar.

In a related development, President Koroma visited holding centers at Magburaka, Mabeseneh and Feredugu and the African Muslim Agency Hospital in Makeni. He used the opportunity to talk to Ebola survivors at the Magbenteh hospital to tell their stories to their various communities and encourage others of their chances of survival when they report early for treatment. “You are an example of what it means to report early for treatment.” He also encouraged quarantined health workers at the Magburaka hospital to stay in isolation until the period of 21 days is lapsed.

President Koroma was accompanied by the British High Commissioner, Peter West, DFID’s Donal Brown who is the UK’s Ebola point-man in Sierra Leone, some cabinet ministers and senior government officials.

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