Pujehun District Chairman hails security forces for success against Ebola
As Pujehun district today marks 42 days of uninterrupted zero Ebola infection and zero quarantine since 26th November 2014, officials have resolved to observe the milestone with cautious celebration.
“This is a massive achievement for us. We are finally there! But we know there is no room for complacency,” said the District Chairman and head of the Ebola Task Force, Sadiq Silla.
Though they are very proud to become the first out of 14 districts in Sierra Leone to be free of Ebola (according to WHO standards), the Task Force plans to celebrate their achievement with thanksgiving services today, Friday (for Muslims) and Sunday (for Christians).
“We need to give thanks to God Almighty for guiding us through to this point. It has not been an easy ride,” said Silla.
Silla paid tribute to all stakeholders, highlighting the key role played by the local media Radio Wanjei, involved in the fight against Ebola in his district, but singled out the local security forces comprising the Police and the Army for majority of the credit.
“In my honest personal estimation, I give 70% credit to the security sector, 20% to the coordination and cooperation of stakeholders and 10% to health workers. The security forces ensured strict compliance of all the laws we put in place without fear or favor,” said Silla, playing down commendation of his strong and decisive leadership by members of the Task Force.
Among the security measures put in place is the banning of the age-old tradition trade fair (locally called Dowei), which brings together traders from the chiefdoms, neighboring districts and even from Liberia on specific market days.
Other key security measures, according to the Local Unit Commander (LUC) of the Pujehun Police Division, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Nathaniel Brewah, are the erection of checkpoints to control mobility of people in and out of the district, the prohibition of overloading in vehicles especially commercial motor bikes, which is a common feature in the Southern Province.
He said they also prohibited pharmacies from selling drugs to people without prescription forms and ensured regular security patrols and monthly cross border security meetings.
In addition, Lt. Col. Kalifa Kamara, who is the commanding officer of the 14 Infantry Battalion, said they did not wait for instructions from the District Health Management Team (DHMT) to quarantine people suspected of the Ebola virus.
“As long as we are able to link you to any Ebola patient we move in swiftly to quarantine you even before you show any symptom of the virus,” said Lt. Col. Kamara.
Furthermore, the Task Force banned congregational prayers.
“The one good thing is that we did not allow Ebola to dismantle our governance structure,” said Silla. “In fact, we moved swiftly to put modalities in place as soon as the first Ebola case was reported in Kailahun district in May, 2014. We did not wait for central government to institute national bye-laws against Ebola. We did not wait for funds before we move into action; we utilized and mobilized the local governance structure that was in place.”
Since the EVD outbreak in the country Pujehun District only recorded 31 positive cases, seven of which survived.
Just as the first Ebola case spread from Kailahun District to the entire country, Sillah hopes that Pujehun District’s model of success will equally be adopted by every district to speedily eradicate the outbreak.
Several dignitaries including the minister of Local Government Mrs. Diana Konomanyi-Kabba (who provided the first funding of five million Leones to the Pujehun District Ebola Task Force to open a bank account), the Resident Minister South, AIG South and the Brigade Commander South-East, among others, are expected to grace the ceremony today.
Meanwhile, Pujehun district, comprising 12 chiefdoms, shares border with Liberia along the Mano River, Bo, Kenema and Bonthe districts, all of which, except Bonthe, are still recording positive Ebola cases and the potential for a relapse is apparent.
“We understand our situation and we will not get carried away by this achievement,” said Silla, adding that they have already begun planning for the post-42 days-zero Ebola infection.By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) Note: This is a Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) supported reporting.
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