Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 October 2014
Hundreds of Sierra Leoneans living in London were on the streets of the capital today, marching with placards and calling for more to be done to save lives in Sierra Leone, where unofficial estimates put the total number of those killed by the virus in the last seven months to over 3,000.
But the government is denying the true extent of the Ebola disaster, which many in Sierra Leone say has been exacerbated by government’s sloppiness, denial and incompetence.
The country’s ministry of health and sanitation says that the total number of Ebola deaths since May, 2014 is 1,049.
But according to the newly formed National Ebola Response Centre, which is led by the military, over 300 bodies have been buried in Freetown alone in the last one week, once again prompting accusations of massive cover-up by government officials.
In the northern chiefdom of Nieni in the Koinadugu district, there are reports of over 60% of the population infected with Ebola, as several bodies are uncovered and awaiting safe burial.
Koinadugu has until last week, when the first case of Ebola was reported, been at the heart of the government’s big Ebola propaganda and cover-up.
But today, there are reports of scores of dead bodies and very sick people in Koinadugu, awaiting medical assistance.
The truth about Koinadugu – despite spectacular claims by government, as the only district that had escaped Ebola, is that scores of people may have in the last seven months, died of Ebola and were unlawfully buried, contrary to state of emergency decree.
With the rest of the world, especially Britain, China and Cuba, sincerely trying to save lives in Sierra Leone, this task is being made all the more harder by corrupt and deceitful officials, who believe that covering up or lying about the true extent of the disease is in the country’s best interest.
In any properly run country, where governance, accountability and the rule of law are held supreme, heads would truly have rolled in consequence, as well as criminal action.
Today, as those occupying State House in Freetown are busy scratching their heads, deciding whether to come clean about Ebola in Sierra Leone, in far away London an unprecedented urgent humanitarian appeal has been launched by the British Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC).
The public appeal has been launched to raise more funds to help combat Ebola, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where according to the WHO, more than 5,000 people have been killed by the virus.
Despite desperate appeals by the UN for developed countries to honour the pledge they made at the UN Summit in New York as well as at the Sierra Leone London Ebola Conference last September, to raise $1 billion, only Britain and the USA have committed a total of about $400 million.
Most developed countries have turned their backs on this exceptional humanitarian disaster. But who would blame them? – Many in Sierra Leone are bound to ask.
Is it right that any government in Africa should rob its citizens of their basic right to good healthcare, access to clean water, good standard of sanitation, electricity and education, after more than half a century of independence?
In London today the British Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) is appealing to the British public to help raise millions of Pounds that could make a difference to saving the lives of thousands of people in Sierra Leone.
According to the DEC, the money raised will be used for financing the safe collection and burial of Ebola dead; support the development of clean water systems and sanitation; and provide emergency food aid across the country, in order to cope with the emerging scarcity of food supplies.
The DEC is also appealing to each of the National Health Service Trusts throughout the UK, to send at least one doctor to West Africa to provide vital specialist medical care.
This is in addition to the hundreds of British military personnel that are already on the ground, providing training for doctors, health workers and burial teams, and supporting the coordination of the Ebola operations in Freetown.
DEC’s appeal launched this morning in London is unprecedented. It is the first time the organisation, which is made up of 13 major charities in the UK will be supporting disease outbreak in any part of the world.
But this is Ebola, a deadly virus that has no cure and respects no geographical boundary or race.
With over 5,000 people in West Africa already killed by the virus, it is estimated that in Sierra Leone alone, at least 10,000 people would be infected by January 2015.
The British government has committed £125 million towards the UN $1 billion Ebola campaign. And it has today promised to match every single penny raised by the DEC fund raising public appeal, up to a maximum of £5 million.
Sierra Leone’s crumbling health systems – hospitals and local community health clinics have been neglected and starved of much needed resources and investments by government, whilst most trained doctors and nurses look for better pay and conditions in the private sector.
Although the country’s weak and crumbling health systems have from time to time been exposed by other deadly diseases such as cholera, the potential of Ebola becoming globally viral has now focussed the minds of leaders across the world to take action. Self-enlightened interest, they say.
But the global response is so far proving to be disappointingly patchy, as several countries are now choosing to close their borders, rather than offer practical or financial aid to the people of West Africa.
Will today’s launch of the Ebola Disaster Emergency Appeal in London, mark a major turning point in Western capitals response to the crisis?