Women in Sierra Leone bearing the brunt of Ebola

Zainab Tunkara Clarkson

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 August 2014

Africa progress panel1The marginalisation of women in Sierra Leone generally makes them highly vulnerable in society. And there is plenty of evidence now to suggest that, they are the group most affected by the deadly Ebola virus, sweeping across the West African sub-region.

The Ebola disease has so far claimed the lives of at least 1,229 victims in the mainly affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone according to the World Health Organization.

The outbreak first started in neighboring Guinea in February 2014 and extended to Sierra Leone and Liberia, exposing more countries to the risk as it spreads across the region and beyond.

People are dying every day – falling victim to the disease. The fight against Ebola is now beyond the scope of one country, because the virus knows no boundaries, nationalities, or gender.

Hence, no one knows where next the deadly virus could strike. Women, who make up a large part of the population, are now bearing the greatest brunt of the disease.

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Ebola is insensitive to class, tribe and political party

Dr. Sama Banya (Puawui)

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 August 2014

Ebola - spannish priestThe Ebola virus is a killer organism that has a notorious and awesome reputation of killing up to 90 percent of its victims. It knows no class, no tribe, regional, ethnic or other affiliation. (Photo: Spanish priest being airlifted – but later died in Spain).

Those who survive are the few lucky ones whose symptoms are recognized early, and supportive treatment set in motion.

All the experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), America’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and other authorities worldwide, now acknowledge that the outbreak had been underestimated.

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Is Sierra Leone’s health minister on the payroll of a drugs research company?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 August 2014

Miatta Kargbo - health minnsterLast week’s report in the Awareness Times regarding Sierra Leone’s health minister’s conflict of interests and possible breach of the country’s civil service code of conduct, in the face of the current public health crisis, raise serious questions about governance, accountability and possible threat to national security.

According to the report, which since its publication has not been refuted by either the minister or State House, the health minister Miata Kargbo is unlawfully serving as minister while currently on the payroll of a pharmaceutical research company – Eli Lilly, who it is understood are developing a vaccine for ebola and other diseases.

Should this allegation be proven to be true – and right now there is no reason to believe it is not, then president Koroma must be held accountable, and State House should answer the following questions:

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Strong growth in Africa’s rising middle class

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 August 2014

adb3A new report published by one of the most successful and long established Banks in Africa – Standard Bank, says that Africa has experienced substantial growth in its middle class over the past fourteen years.

The report – ‘Understanding Africa’s middle class,’ found that there are 15 million middle-class households in 11 of sub-Saharan Africa’s top economies this year, up from 4.6 million in 2000 and 2.4 million in 1990 – an increase of 230% over 14 years.

However, of the total number of households across these focal economies, 86% of them remain within the broadly “low income” band, emphasizing the nascent maturation of many of the continent’s markets.

The report also found that the combined GDPs of the 11 measured economies had grown tenfold since 2000.

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Australia gives $1M to World Health Organization’s Ebola Fund

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 August 2014 

Ebola protective wear at ConnauhgtReport from Sierra Leone’s embassy in Beijing says that the government of Australia has pledged a further $1 million to help combat the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.

This funding is in addition to the annual$ 20 million contribution that the Australian government provides to the WHO for emergency health relief.

This was disclosed to ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh by the Australian ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, ambassador Frances Adamson at a meeting in Beijing, where Mr. Foh briefed her about the challenges facing the Mano River Union Countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ambassador Foh also requested further support from the Australian government.

The Australian ambassador said that, following a request by ambassador Foh to meet and discuss a range of issues – including the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, she informed her Home Office about the request.

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Dr Modupe Cole – Gone too soon – but never to be forgotten

Momodu Haddi

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 August 2014

Dr Modupe ColeOn that fateful day – 14th August, 2014, at about 11:14am, I received this message from a friend: “It is with a heavy heart that I report the news of Dr. Modupe Cole’s passing. Dr. Cole was unable to continue the good fight. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Three days on, I am still trying to come to terms with the national loss of a true patriot, philanthropist and hero.

Modupe was a friend. We shared the same dormitory together at Fourah Bay College in Freetown. Just three years ago, Dr. Cole provided dedicated medical care for my ailing mother, who sadly passed away in 2012.

To say that Dr. Modupe Cole was a kind, gentle and unassuming fellow would be a massive understatement of his true character.

In short, for thousands of people in Sierra Leone including me, he is our hero.

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Fourah Bay community mourns the loss of Imam Sanusi Tejan

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 August 2014

Imam Sanusi TejanImam Alhaji Mohammad Sanusi Tejan, passed away last Friday afternoon at the Intensive Care Unit in Connaught Hospital, after a short illness.

The 64 year old Imam was laid to rest yesterday by his family, the Jamiul Baitullah Jammat and the entire community, at the Fourah Bay cemetery.

Politicians from across the country’s political landscape were also present at the funeral yesterday, including SLPP’s Julius Maada Bio and Dr. Prince Harding, mourning with the family.

In the last twelve months, the Fourah Bay community has suffered many losses, including; Dr Afyz Hardy, Alhaji Babatunde Savage, Haja Marie Kassim, and Mrs Tejan Cole.

Imam Sanusi Tejan is one of the most iconic imams that the community has had in recent years.

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Gambia Bird suspend flights to Freetown and Monrovia

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 August 2014

Gambia Bird 1Gambia Bird Airlines – one of the few airlines flying to Sierra Leone, yesterday announced that it is suspending all flights to Monrovia and Freetown, starting last night – Friday, 15th August 2014, until the 31st August 2014.

The company says that the decision was taken “in the light of international concern about the further spread of the Ebola virus in the West African sub-region, and with the aim of continuing to offer a safe and reliable service to all customers, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of passengers and crew”.

Last week, British Airways and other airlines suspended all flights to both countries, with severe economic consequences, the extent of which is yet to be counted.

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“How to stop Ebola – and the next outbreak” – World Bank and AU Chiefs ponder

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 August 2014

Ebola centre in GuineaToday, Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) painted a very grim picture of the Ebola crisis and its prognosis. It will get worse, before it gets better.

“The virus has been vastly underestimated.”

The World Health Organisation,  MSF and other health agencies working in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, may have different approaches to tackling the Ebola crisis, but share one conclusion: There is serious concern over the under-reporting of the number of those infected, as well as the fatalities.

And contrary to president Koroma’s optimism that his government will eradicate Ebola in Sierra Leone within 60 to 90 days, MSF today announced that, it will take at least 6 months before the corner can be turned.

At current rate of infection, it is estimated that in Sierra Leone alone, the cumulative number of fatalities could exceed 2,000, if efforts to prevent the disease; trace, diagnose, isolate and treat those affected, are not stepped up.

The World Bank president – Dr. Jim Kim and the African Union Chairman – Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, issued a joint statement today, expressing optimism that the ebola outbreak could be contained within months.

“We are confident that the Ebola virus disease response plan, led by both the countries and the World Health Organization, can contain this Ebola outbreak and, in a matter of months, extinguish it”.

This is Jim Yong Kim and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s statement:

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What happened to trade minister – Usu Boie Kamara?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2014

Usu Boie KamaraUnconfirmed reports from Sierra Leone yesterday said that the trade and industry minister – Usu Boie Kamara has died. Still there is no official statement from State House to clarify the story.

Sierra Leone is the only country in the world where a government minister will be urgently flown out of the country on a private jet the nation can ill-afford, without accountability to the peple.

Whether the minister is critically ill in London or not, State House owes it to the people to let them know what happened so as to stop speculations.

Everyone in the country is in fear of ebola and will be forgiven to believe that any health emergencies involving a minister being urgently flown abroad, is ebola related.

Why was Dr. Modupe Cole not flown out of the country on a private jet for treatment elsewhere, even to Liberia whose president has the common sense of phoning president obama to request the ebola drug now being used in Liberia?

Why was Dr. Khan not offered the same luxury of being flown out on a jet plane?

Are some lives more precious than others in Sierra Leone?

In a separate development, there is growing concern in Freetown and overseas about the welfare of the family of Dr. Modupe Cole, who are still being locked up indoors for almost a week – with armed soldiers posted outside, since Dr. Cole was removed to the Kailahun Ebola centre where he was pronounced dead yesterday.

Members of the Cole family living at the doctor’s residence have not been tested Ebola positive, but are being kept prisoners in their own home.

Surely, there has to be a fine balance between the need to promote public health and protecting the human rights of the Cole family.

Treating them like criminals will not stem the tide of Ebola in Freetown. The government must either declare them Ebola positive and move them to a treatment centre, or give them back their freedom.

This kind of extreme action by the authorities is seriously encouraging those that are suspected of contracting the virus to go into hiding, and will not help the fight against the disease.

The arrival of ebola has really and truly tested the ability of those elected to govern Sierra Leone.

At the best of times ministers have woefully failed to manage the affairs of State.

Now with ebola, it is obvious that they cannot manage an akarra stall in big markit.

The management failures that are being witnessed must be placed squarely at the doors of State House.

The president and ministers are not a rag tag band of volunteers.

They are elected public servants who by Sierra Leone standards are being paid hefty salaries to perform their duties effectively, while doctors are being paid pittance to save lives.

This will most surely be considered by the people at the polls in 2017, or soonest.