Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 March 2015
As the number of people contracting the Ebola virus and dying from the disease continue to rise in Sierra Leone, in Liberia fingers are crossed the country has turned the corner, as they celebrate zero cases in the last few weeks. (Photo: Koroma washes hands to fight a new political battle).
In neighbouring Sierra Leone, which now has the highest number of Ebola victims in the West African region, scientists and medical experts are puzzled as to why Ebola remains doggedly entrenched in the capital Freetown and three of the ruling APC party’s heartlands – Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia.
Instead of focusing on bringing Ebola to an end in Sierra Leone, president Koroma and senior members of his ruling party have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy, waging war on those in their party with whom they disagree.
This dangerous diversion of purpose and political instability engineered at State House, has increased the risk of Ebola returning to the whole country once again.
Bombali is president Koroma’s home district. Port Loko is home to the information minister – Kanu, yet neither of the two most senior politicians in the country has been able to emulate the success of the Southern districts, in bringing Ebola to an end in their respective hometowns.
WHO and WFP have now seized the initiative. They have formed a new partnership to take the fight to those communities where Ebola remains undefeated.
At the height of the Ebola crisis – last year, president Koroma visited each of the districts, where he laid down very sternly, the consequences of residents in those communities failing to observe the Ebola restrictions.
In Bombali, a local chief believed to be his uncle, was fined for failing to implement the restrictions.
But four months on, what is clear is that local communities and their chiefs in the Southern districts have shown exemplary conduct in bringing Ebola to an end in their respective districts, most of which have gone for more than 42 days without a single case of Ebola.
So why are the northern hometowns of the president, his gullible information minister and other senior ministers, continuing to report new cases of Ebola every single day, since Pujehun in the south registered zero cases over three and a half months ago?
The northern districts have had more resources poured into their communities than the south, despite the southern districts at the early stages of the crisis, recording the highest number of new cases and deaths.
The report into the misappropriation of the Ebola funds, published by the Audit office last month, shows massive sums of money unaccounted for in the northern districts, yet with little or no repercussions.
The impact of this disgraceful theft of Ebola funds on the fight against the virus in the north is now evidently clear, as the number of new cases and deaths continues to rise in those communities.
Tonight, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), have announced a renewed joint effort to achieve zero cases in the three affected countries – especially Sierra Leone, as president Koroma drops the leadership baton to fight personal political battle in his party.
This new partnership arrangement will combine the logistics strength of WFP with WHO’s public health expertise to get the job done, as the number of new cases keeps rising in Sierra Leone.
“It helps us deploy and maintain technical teams with expertise in infection prevention and control, epidemiology, and contact tracing, enabling dedicated health workers in the deep field to do their best work. The partnership is also a learning opportunity for the future, informing our capacities to launch joint operations during large scale emergencies,” Dr. Chan told the media.
WFP Executive Director – Ertharin Cousin says that; “Over the past seven months, partnerships have been crucial in fighting this devastating outbreak. WFP has worked with our partners to respond to communities’ most basic needs — making sure food is reaching everywhere that the Ebola virus has hit. Our logistical support to WHO and the wider humanitarian community has enabled affected people to receive the urgent care and support they need.”
“We are making progress, however we must remain vigilant. The Ebola crisis will not end until we identify, reach and successfully treat every last case. Recognizing this goal, the WHO-WFP partnership – a joint technical and operational force – will continue providing the support required to achieve zero cases.”
Using a joint operations approach, the two agencies agreed to combine their expertise in more than 60 priority districts and prefectures on the ground in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the three most Ebola-affected countries.
Today, more WHO employees are working at the community level on Ebola in West Africa than at any other point in the epidemic.
In districts with ongoing Ebola transmission, WFP is ensuring that WHO disease detectives have the resources they need — computer equipment, phones and stable internet connectivity — to share information critical to tracking and stopping the virus.
WFP is also managing the fleet of rugged vehicles carrying WHO social anthropologists and epidemiologists to isolated villages, where they will continue gaining the trust of communities to find and follow contacts of Ebola patients until all cases are resolved.
The joint partnership responds to the directive of WHO’s Executive Board Special Session on Ebola, to develop new ways to strengthen health emergency operations and provides a model for collaboration in future response to emergencies with health impact.