Ebola – confused dot Com?

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 September 2014

State House - FreetownIs it me or what? I mean from indications, most of our political leaders are obviously a genre of those who missed the last bus to the real world.

It shows, not only in their crass utterances but also in the government’s cyclical political stunt of attempting to pull rabbits out of the hat when it doesn’t even have a hamster.

Recent events, bizarre actions, inactions and decisions just simply raise the question of how many hard truths the administration is really ready to face given the blizzard of statistics that are evident across the land. But pride comes before a yawn; except that our brethren bear the brunt of this sleep-walk.

Sierra Leone is in a very terrible state. The people are gasping in palpable fear. The political establishment has completely failed them and even the incurable optimist is beginning to wonder why things are going from bad to worse.

The hitherto detached attitude to the Ebola disease has seen a shocking escalation in its brutality beyond our comprehension. The belatedly waking up of those in government who have trundled into the crisis in their usual state of denial as well as their hesitant and tardy effort has brought out the knives from all and sundry.

The gruesome images of deaths, destruction and human misery, that have overwhelmed our nation and which are evidenced on the streets have made even the incurable optimist and hackneyed sceptic to wonder if after our devastating civil war, we have the resources to cope with man-made, natural and un-natural calamities that have been and now continue to be our lot.

From one challenge to the other, Sierra Leone seems to be steeped in various crises which often expose the shallowness of our society and those who lead us. Sadly, and collectively, we never seem to learn from such.

There is an emptiness in me as the nation’s landscape continues to be a little sadder and emptier, more forlorn and less radiant.

Dr Buck RIPI have always believed that the purpose of governance is to provide for and protect the citizens of the country. However, as we say goodbye to yet another doctor and several more innocent and poor souls, I can no longer fathom out what our own leaders are doing especially with all the dangers that we face.

I cannot understand why it is only now that they are waking up to the scale of the potential catastrophe that has unfolded in our midst.

I am at a loss why they failed hopelessly to appreciate that Ebola was not a fictional story and was an unwelcome guest on our shores; that has forcefully taken its seat and was now walking among us and striking fear into the hearts of all and sundry saying “catch me if you can”

I ask a simple question, given all that is coming to light with the Ebola weapon of mass destruction, is there reason to believe that the politicians in this country, are aware of the scale of their responsibilities to the people?

Anyway, while I appreciate the fact that the Ebola outbreak is now akin to a war situation and needs to be addressed with the utmost seriousness, unity of purpose and even sacrifice by everyone, in view of the rate of casualties among health workers and government’s seemingly hopeless attempt to be a leading light, I cannot for the life of me, see the justification of the three-day (two and a half more like it) national lockdown.

Although I am very much in support of any measure to expel the ravaging monster, I find a total paralysis to ‘hunt down’ the unwanted guest as very, very cosmetic.

It gives an appearance of being bold and fearless in the eye of the storm but may prove a knee-jerk and counter-productive measure.

For one, a nation that could not enumerate in weeks or register all eligible voters successfully within the shortest period, suddenly dreams of achieving the impossible in three days – testing the entire national household or at worst residents of a widespread disease-prone area. I’m glad that it has now been re-designated as a sensitisation programme.

salone poverty2We do not even know the locations of our houses, some of which are built on stolen lands and not registered; or are not easily reachable.

Secondly, how many people are going to encourage strangers into their houses at odd hours of the day and in truth how many of the co-opted health workers are really going to put themselves at risk given the stigma and the lack of enduring incentives in the event of any mishap.

Knowing that when a highly placed official suffers a headache, all the stops are pulled to get him/her abroad, yet some of our doctors and health personnel have perished like cockroaches without any significant and encouraging response from the government, are we sincerely expecting a rather fruitful exercise?

Thirdly, I find it a paradox that while we are blaming foreign airlines for suspending their operations over the presence of our ad hoc tenant – Ebola – the level of trepidation pervading the corridors of power since the importation of the Virus and the realisation of the massive bungling of the initial containment process, has led to some and especially this panic and unworkable measures; even against all sensible professional and international advice.

It is a powerful reminder and a summing up of the peculiar narrative of a country that persists in flirting with disaster. Given our level of hygiene, some of the so-called task-forces or whatever nomenclature they carry, will surely end up helping to spread the disease in their crude way.

I hope that when this plague is removed from us the attrition of Ebola will be a lesson of life to our leaders. But this is for another day.

Like many a befuddled old cove, whoever’s fantasy it is, the decision has taken to advocating perplexity on a different planet. It is more of an epistle of frustration.

Putting such a moral spin on the effort and ignoring pragmatic arguments on the impossibility of quarantining the entire nation, is a sign of dreamers and tricksters

Ebola sierra leone2Nevertheless, I am still baffled by the fact that what started as a disease that is self-limiting and was largely confined to the border areas is now not only an urban problem that has exposed all the imagery declared as the dividends of our democracy from the present administration but it has also necessitated the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), declaring an international public health emergency and also sent us cap in hand again.

Anyway if the government which is throwing up its arms in convoluted exasperation says it was calling for international help and is in consultations to facilitate exchange of information, and agree on joint collaborative actions, then why is it going against all sensible advice?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for any measures that will put a damper on the ferocity of this devastating enemy of progress ravaging our innocent and helpless Kith and Kin.
However, facing up to this tough challenge in an intelligent, decisive and effective manner, to me, is worth the weight in gold.

Right now, the people need a leader who is seated on the boat, bellowing directions, not one flailing incompetently in the water, waiting for the storm to subside by itself or hoping that the days of Moses will once more be played out. (Why don’t we just call the Pied Piper – it is surely easier)

school children in sierra leoneOn a more serious note, I would rather want the government to examine the more important matter of the measures that have been put in place to ensure that Ebola does not get into our schools. How prepared are the schools to check for symptoms among students?

Have all the schools acquired the necessary health apparatus to help them monitor any possible outbreak? Have teachers and other school personnel been trained on what to do in event that a pupil develops symptoms? These, indeed, are assurances that the people need.

Similarly, access to safe, clean water is of essence now and in the future. Unfortunately, in Sierra Leone this is a luxury to majority of our homes including even our state house. As for our health centres and hospitals, this essential commodity is either unavailable or its quality leaves more to be desired.

salone poverty1If I were the President, my attention would be on the poor unhygienic conditions of the environment, structure, and equipment in such facilities, especially in the provinces where majority of the people live; as well as in densely populated urban areas such as Kroo Bay.

No amount of sensitisation or forced imprisonment will convince our fellow citizens to change their habits or patronise health facilities which are expensive for them by their standards and which are unclean, rotten and a veritable breeding ground for viruses and germs.

Ebola is having a great economic and social impact, more so among the teeming poverty-stricken masses who have never truly recovered from our long and devastating civil war.

Its handling, initially described as a phantom conspiracy theory by those with deliberate amnesia; who also propagated unqualified falsehood as a colourful toga for the spread of the disease, illuminates the often-exasperating drama of Sierra Leone’s fitful seven years effort to achieve a semblance of a sane and modern society.

President Koroma honoured by Benin-PresidentSadly, our fascination with politics of deceit and fantasy will definitely continue ad nauseam as we allow mediocrity in public life to bring us to our knees.

It is part of our peculiar clamour to over-promote our leaders whose credentials most of the time are the ability to possess less substance than style; and who boast the ability to talk good rather than a proven track record of service and dedication to transforming the lot of the generality of the people.

Our long suffering and pain since the era of the conscienceless brood of vipers who infested our land with their guns and bombs and turned Sierra Leone into a terrain of blood, seems to have weakened a large percentage of us; blindfolded us as a people and rendered us powerless and voiceless so much so that we can no longer be agents in our own liberation.

We need prayers as God continues His cleansing of our land.

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