Mental health – the silent crisis in Sierra Leone

Bai-Bai Sesay – Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 October 2015

World-Mental-Health-Day-October-10-2012-300x180On October 10th Sierra Leone like all other nations in the world, will be observing World Mental Health Day with the theme – “Dignity in mental health.”

World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and networks in more than 150 countries.

People and institutions all over the world observe this annual awareness event, bringing attention to mental and psychological illness and its major effects on people, their families and communities.

Today, thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their basic human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatized and marginalized, but are also subjected to emotional and physical abuse in institutions and in the community.

Poor mental health care, due to a lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities, promote further violations.

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Sierra Leone holds her breath as British Ebola free nurse goes back into hospital

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 October 2015

Pauline Cafferkey2The people of Sierra Leone are today holding their breath as news of British nurse – Pauline Cafferkey who contracted the Ebola virus in December 2014, whilst working in Sierra Leone, but treated and declared Ebola free in London, was early this morning flown back from her home in Scotland to an high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

She has been diagnosed once again of having the Ebola virus, after almost nine months of being cleared.

This breaking news will have serious implications for the thousands of Ebola patients in West Africa that have been treated and declared Ebola free.

Has Ebola been fooling us all this time into thinking that it has been defeated?

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Sierra Leone improved by one percent in 5 years – says Mo Ibrahim Report

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 October 2015

Ebola - Weep Not MotherSierra Leone has the third worst healthcare in the whole of Africa, according to the latest Mo Ibrahim Governance Index Report, based on its study of all 52 countries in Africa in 2013, before the start of the Ebola crisis.

Ranked 50 out of 52 African countries, only Somalia and Chad performed worse.

The poor performance of the government in tackling serious health issues in the country, due to neglect and poor governance, could be seen in its mismanagement of the Ebola crisis, government’s unpreparedness and the poor state of the health systems.

With the African average performance for healthcare rated at 72.7%, Sierra Leone scored 51.9 over 100, third place only to Chad at 48.7 and Somalia at 40.3 over 100 respectively.

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Kandeh Yumkella arrives home after a week-long engagement abroad

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 October 2015

KKY G20 -1Sierra Leone’s presidential hopeful – Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella arrived back in Freetown yesterday evening, after a week-long engagement at the UN in New York and then attending the G20 Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

Speaking with the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas, shortly after his arrival in Freetown last night, a cheerful Yumkella said that he has had a very busy and productive trip, and was delighted to be home to continue his political engagement.

“In the last two weeks, I was back in New York, where I was invited by the UN Secretary General – Ban Ki Moon to be part of the celebrations of the adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, which replaces the Millennium Development Goals, but more specifically, the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal No. 7, which will ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable modern energy supply for all. This is what I built over ten years ago – a coalition to achieve that goal which they couldn’t do for twenty years.”

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Sierra Leone government receives $16 million from World Bank to create jobs 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 October 2015

youths in sierra leoneMost credible economists would tell you that government does not create sustainable employment opportunities, only the private sector can.

They will further argue that the role of government is to create the necessary conditions that are conducive for private entrepreneurs to invest and create wealth and jobs for the unemployed.

The World Bank knows and understands this principle perhaps much more than most. Yet when it comes to propping up failing governments in Africa, they are ever so quick to take out their cheque books to provide massive sums of cash to corrupt regimes to create phantom jobs.

When president Koroma was elected in 2007, he received an overwhelming vote of confidence from the vast majority of the people, on the strength of his promise to create jobs for the longterm unemployed, especially the two million youths in the country.

As billions of dollars poured into Sierra Leone in support of Koroma’s Agenda for Change, today there is no evidence of the hundreds of thousands of jobs promised by the president.

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Sierra Leone counting down to Ebola freedom is long and costly

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 October 2015

Freetown flooding 20151The people of Sierra Leone, after sixteen long months of battling against the deadly Ebola virus, have once again started the countdown to being declared an Ebola free country.

But this is not going to be easy.  Although the last two known Ebola patients in the country were released from treatment centres last Saturday, there are scores, if not hundreds of people that remain quarantined in the northern districts of Kambia and Bombali.

Recent torrential rains have also made the final push against the transmission and spread of the disease all the more difficult.

Thousands of homeless people are now seeking refuge across the capital Freetown. Scores of villages in the provinces have been cut off from the main towns and cities. Food is in very short supply. The onset of disease such as cholera and typhoid is ever present.

But with government’s misplaced priorities and corruption it is difficult to see how Ebola can be brought to a quick end, and other deadly and preventable diseases avoided.

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Ernest Koroma delivered a poor speech at the UN General Assembly

Messeh Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 September 2015

Ernest Bai KoromaDisgracefully, Ernest Koroma’s first and worst mistake in delivering that speech at the UN, was to spend time praising other world leaders, whilst ignoring the efforts of his people fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone.

He failed to start his speech with the Ebola crisis that has killed thousands in Sierra Leone. And he went through several paragraphs before mentioning Ebola – albeit vaguely.

He failed to pay tribute to our fallen heroes and heroines – courageous citizens, including medical personal who lost their lives fighting Ebola.

The Ebola crisis should have been the very first words to come from his mouth: ” I am affected by Ebola”. Shamefully, Ernest Koroma’s speech was all about rhetoric and propaganda about his cosmetic achievements.

He ignored Sierra Leone, and mainly spoke about issues affecting other countries. Other leaders use the United Nations’ podium to speak about the issues affecting their nations, but Ernest Koroma was there talking about irrelevant issues.

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My government is not responsible for the floods in Sierra Leone – blame climate change

President Koroma speaks at the UN  

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 September 2015

Freetown flooding 20151President Koroma has refused to accept responsibility on behalf of his government, for the destruction and loss of life caused by floods, after torrential rainfall, which his government had previously been warned could be devastating.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly today, he also failed to call on the international community to help his government undertake the massive building construction and rehabilitation programme that is needed to rehouse thousands of people, whose shanty dwellings have been destroyed along the shores and bays of the capital Freetown.

Given his poor track record in planning, organising and managing national crisis, there are calls for president Koroma to call on the UN once again to assist his government, so as to avoid further suffering in the country.

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Kandeh Yumkella on the waves of global success

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 September 2015

KKY meets multibillionaire chief ElumeluDr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella has been appointed as one of the commissioners of the new Global Energy Transition Commission. (Photo: Yumkella winning the warm approbation of multibillionnaire Chief Elumelu). 

Kandeh is the only African to be appointed to the Commission, and joins an elite group of leaders, strategists and thinkers, including President Calderon – the former President of Mexico, Paul Poulson – former Secretary of the US Treasury under President George Bush, Chad Holliday – Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, Dean Dalla Vale – CCO of BHP Billiton, Dr. Chengwen of the State Council of China, Lord Nicholas Stern – Professor of the London School of Economics, Mr. Liveris – CEO of Dow Chemicals.

Yumkella recently returned home to Sierra Leone after almost twenty years at the UN where he worked as Under Secretary and Special Representative of UN Chief Ban Ki Moon.

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Public protest awaiting President Koroma at the UN General Assembly 

Dennis Kabatto

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 September 2015

President koroma at UN post ebola confWhen Sierra Leone’s President Ernest B. Koroma delivers his address on Tuesday at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), he will face a concerted protest by Concerned Sierra Leoneans USA (CSLUSA).

In an invitation to Sierra Leoneans in the USA to join Tuesday’s protest outside the UN Headquarters in Manhattan, CSLUSA outlined their grievances as the basis for their scheduled demonstration, the fourth such action against President Koroma.

They describe the removal of the country’s elected vice president Sam Sumana from office and subsequent ruling by the Sierra Leone Supreme Court in favor of the president’s action to remove Mr. Sumana, as a manipulation and “clear defiance of the stipulations in the constitution.”

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Sierra Leone government officials and their unexplained wealth

Eddie Vandy

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 September 2015

Acc boss - Joseph kamaraSierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Czar – Mr. Joseph Kamara (Photo) has recently had his $11,200 monthly salaried contract renewed for another five years; and in his own words: to ‘continue the path to rid the country of corruption.’

But how effective is he, in holding government officials to account for their unexplained wealth?

And more importantly, how successfully has he been in getting public officials – including the president, to annually declare their assets in accordance with the law?

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Kandeh Yumkella hits back at SLPP party grandee Abass Bundu 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 September 2015

kandeh Yumkella in London1The division within the opposition SLPP, fuelled by the row over the membership status of presidential hopeful – Dr. Kandeh Yumkella seems to be getting wider and deeper.

Despite rallying calls by the party chairman – Chief Kapen for unity and constitutionality to reign supreme, feathers are still being ruffled as the war of words continues.

A group of senior party grandees whom Yumkella says ought to know better, than to deliberately try to exclude him from the party through unconstitutional means, are insisting that Yumkella is not a bona fide member of the party.

The group – also known as the membership verification committee, is led by the firebrand chairman of the party’s southern region – Mr. Soloku. Other members of the group include former foreign minister Dr. Abass Bundu and legal luminary Eke Halloway.

A few weeks ago the self-styled ‘membership verification committee’, published a report it said had investigated the membership status of Yumkella and found that, there is no evidence of his membership of the SLPP.

This conclusion was echoed last week by Dr. Abass Bundu, and has drawn swift response not only from Kandeh Yumkella himself, but supporters across the SLPP party and beyond.

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Millennium Challenge Corporation approves $300 million for Liberia and Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 September 2015

President koroma popularity in 2007When president Koroma took office in 2007, Sierra Leone was described as one of the darkest nations on the planet, with an intermittent daily average electricity supply of less than 15 Megawatts – barely enough to power the country’s public offices at day-time in the capital Freetown.

Eight years on and after a manifesto promise by president Koroma’s ruling APC to change this dark image by increasing the supply of electricity, more than 80% of households are today suffering from chronic shortage of power and clean drinking water.

Most areas of Sierra Leone are in a state of perpetual darkness – especially the East of the capital Freetown, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in reviving what many Sierra Leoneans describe as the cursed Bumbuna Hydro-electricity facility in the north of the country.

This week, the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has approved a package of funding support for Liberia and Sierra Leone, totaling $300 million to help provide electricity in both countries.

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What planet has Justice Tolla-Thompson been living?

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 September 2015

JusticeThe subtleties and entrenched values of limp-wristed political office holders, which have morphed into superficial, amoral, yet seemingly desirable offering of today, never ceases to amaze me.

It is these characteristics, whereby those who should be the moral guardians of the nation, instead prefer the safety of their comfort zone that have inevitably created a destructive national socio-political consciousness and distorted polity.

Sadly, the puritanical assumption that they are being taken seriously, often makes them feel like the last prophet standing; rather than people in unstoppable terminal decline and who are cluttered with much of the baggage of the past, as well as lacking the authoritative voice at the table of credibility.

One of such political office holder is the Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Justice Tolla- Thompson. He was recently quoted as telling leaders of the eleven caricatures called political parties in Sierra Leone, that “Democracy without checks and balances is anarchy and that when there is sanity, democracy will succeed”. Hurrah. What words of wisdom. Read more

Flooding in Sierra Leone – government minister and diplomat says world is coming to an end

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 September 2015

End of the world1

After eight long years of poor governance, incompetence, corruption and debauchery, senior ministers in the Koroma government are now saying that “the end is near” – the World is coming to an end.

But whose world are they referring to? Your world, their world, our world?

The world may be coming to an end, but surely not the world that 7 billion people live in. What is surely coming to an end, as the 2018 election approaches in Sierra Leone, is the world of the ruling APC mafia controlled fiefdom, that has plagued and corrupted a nation of 6 million people.

Writing in his Cocorioko newspaper, senior government minister Wilfred Kabs Kanu said: “We are in the end times and these disasters clearly show that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth.”

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Dr Fuambai Sia Ahmadu speaks about her Presidency of the Kono Union USA

Benjamin Kaingbanja

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 September 2015

Fuambai Sia Ahmadu (2)For the first time in over 20 years, the oldest Sierra Leonean organization in the USA the Kono Union USA Inc. is cleaning its own house.

Under the no-nonsense leadership of globally recognized anthropologist Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu (Photo), the KUUSA is once again poised to regain its status as one of the largest and most vibrant diaspora ethnic associations in the DMV area.

“It hasnt been easy”, says Dr. Ahmadu as I caught up with her for a quick chat a few days ago. “When I took over, Kono Union was dead. No executive board. No members. The organization hadn’t even been legally registered for over 17 years.”

At the time Dr. Ahmadu decided to contest for the Presidency in February 2014, the Union was plagued with accusations of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.

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Koroma government failed to share vital information with the public about the floods – says SLPP

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2015

Freetown flooding 20153

With seven people dead, hundreds injured and thousands left homeless in Sierra Leone, caused by heavy downpour in less than twenty-four hours, criticisms are beginning to emerge of the government’s incompetence and poor handling of the flood crisis.

As it was with the Ebola crisis that has now taken the lives of almost 4,000 people and $14 million stolen from the Ebola funds, the Koroma government is now faced with fresh allegations of poor disaster management planning and unpreparedness.

Thousands of people across Sierra Leone are tonight uncertain about their future, as they spend a second night in damp and cold conditions, shirking up at the national stadium and other civic buildings, with very little food, beddings and clothing.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed by the heavy rains. Bridges, roads and several public infrastructures have also been destroyed.

It is now estimated that Sierra Leone would need more than $20 million to repair and rehabilitate some of the roads and buildings destroyed by the heavy rains, which are predicted to continue for another five days at least.

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Sierra Leone – the day governance degenerated into a complete disillusionment

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2015

President Koroma at malabo ebola conferenceThe day 40 became greater than 50 was the day that hope died. It was the day that national aspirations for a true and decent society where justice and equity reigns, became less a hope and more of a pipe dream.

It was the day governance degenerated into a complete disillusionment.

It was the day that national interest was trumped by vested and individual interests. It was the day the national dream was sold for a quick buck, position and political subservience.

It was the day that judicial and executive rascality, in an unholy matrimony, jumped into bed and murdered democracy in Sierra Leone. (Photo: President Koroma).

It was the day that the agenda for the prosperity of the very soul of the nation, was unwittingly exposed as a farce.

It was the day that governance, as presently constituted, lost all sense of decency, uprightness and morality. It was a day that said a lot about our society: Dysfunctional – a nation where there has not been a conscious effort to build a culture, based on fairness, equity and justice.

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Then it was war and pestilence and now floods – which way Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2015

Freetown floods 20154

The people of Sierra Leone have this morning woken up to the very grim task of clearing up and recovering whatever little has been left behind, after three days of massive torrential rain. And there is more to come, according to meteorologists.

Not surprisingly, Freetown the capital is experiencing the worst of the flooding, after decades of under-investment and lack of proper planning that could have rehabilitated the city’s poor and colonial drainage system built to support 200,000 people – but now falling under the weight of millions of people.

Today, over 2.5 million people live in the city, again a serious failing of successive governments to adequately resettle over 1 million people, who had sought refuge from their provincial towns and villages during the brutal civil war.

But the mass migration of people from the provinces – mainly from the north of the country, did not start with the war. And today we are paying the cost. It is a politically inspired, social engineering project that has gone awfully wrong.

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Dr Kandeh Yumkella is at the UN this week

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 September 2015

UN assemblyThe month of September is a very busy period in New York. And as always, Heads of State fly in to New York from their respective capitals to attend the Annual UN General Assembly.

The 70th Session which opened yesterday, will see a flurry of activities at the UN Headquarters, including the visit of His Holiness – Pope Francis, who is scheduled to address the 183 Member States.

As high-level dignitaries show-up, flanked by high-level security, Sierra Leonean presidential aspirant – Kandeh Yumkella is at the UN for a series of high-level engagements, including briefing UN countries on the state of energy access around the world, along with  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

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