UNMEER staff join SLAJ Yellow Ribbon campaign
Staff of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in Sierra Leone, including Crisis Manager Bintou Keita, last Friday went to work in yellow dresses, giving momentum to a Yellow Ribbon campaign launched in February by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to raise Ebola awareness.
The UN employees wore wrist bands depicting Ebola messages and pinned yellow ribbons to their attires. At their main offices in New England, Freetown, they demonstrated hand-washing and sanitizing techniques, conducted one-on-one awareness-raising exercises, and distributed pertinent flyers to workers of the National Ebola Response Centre and others who were in the compound.
SLAJ intends the yellow ribbon – and the colour yellow – to symbolize a commitment to practices that can help end Ebola transmission. Wearing the colour yellow implies a commitment to safe burial practise, reporting the sick to the authorities, avoiding body contact, frequently washing hands, agreeing to be quarantined when suspected of being in contact with an Ebola victim, states SLAJ.
Ms. Keita said that UNMEER is supporting the SLAJ’s campaign to “show our commitment to efforts to reach zero transmission. By wearing yellow, my colleagues and l are demonstrating that we are ready for a strong, final push to end the virus.”
The Crisis Manager added that, “If we commit ourselves to these key practices, if everyone else can commit themselves, Ebola will end sooner rather than later.”
The President of SLAJ, Kelvin Lewis, who was also in the compound to observe the exercise, praised UNMEER for contributing in diverse ways to Ebola response efforts, including in awareness-raising efforts. “The yellow ribbon symbolizes the commitment of individuals, groups and institutions taking action to end Ebola,” he said.
For UNMEER, the campaign does not end with a single activity on a Friday morning. Going forward, Ms. Keita said that UNMEER staff will practise Ebola prevention habits, including ensuring that water and soap for hand washing are placed in strategic locations around the office premises. “We want to be example to others.”
Mohamed Kakay, who joined UNMEER in November last year, hopes that the Yellow Ribbon campaign will reinvigorate those involved in response efforts and motivate the grassroots population to shake off complacency.
“Lately, I noticed that people don’t seem to have the same urgency and commitment to Ebola-prevention practices that they had late last year. So, this campaign is very timely,” says Mr. Kakay.
“Those of us here to help in the Ebola fight should remind ourselves that we also need to avoid Ebola. So this campaign is pumping up everyone, including me” adds Mr. Kakay. “People often ask me why I have a yellow ribbon and I take the opportunity to explain all the dos and don’ts of Ebola.”
Already, Ms. Keita and her team have met with top officials of SLAJ to discuss plans to use the Yellow Ribbon campaign to boost the Mano River Union leaders’ commitment to zero cases within 60 days. In mid-February, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma joined his counterparts from Liberia (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf), Guinea (Alpha Konde) and a representative of the Ivorian leader to commit to work to reach zero cases by mid-April.
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