The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 August 2014
The family and people of Sierra Leone are today trying to come to terms with the shocking death of Dr. Modupe Cole, one of the country’s top physicians at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
He contracted the Ebola virus whilst trying to save the lives of others. And like Dr. Umar Khan, Sierra Leone has lost another hero.
How many more is the nation of 6 million people – with less than 10 senior doctors going to lose, before WHO and others step up practical support in the fight against Ebola.
Must the poor people of Sierra Leone wait for several more of its best brains to die before real help arrives? And why is the government waiting for $20 million to arrive from international donors?
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations in the world and has worked hard to pick itself up from the ashes of war – a senseless war that took the lives of over 200,000 people.
Since the emergence of Ebola the country has lost 2 senior doctors and scores of other medical personnel.
Sierra Leone has experienced the highest number of Ebola deaths to date, with an unofficial cumulative total of more than 305.
Almost every district of Sierra Leone has recorded an incidence of Ebola, with the epicentre – Kailahun shifting rapidly south westwards.
Freetown – the capital is now in a state of panic. There are serious fears that many of those who have contracted the virus, are refusing to come out of hiding and are self-medicating with traditional and bogus potions.
Also some doctors are concerned about the likelihood of a massive upsurge in the number of reported cases in Freetown in the coming weeks, because of the slow incubation period expected in the capital.
President Koroma is said to be angry at the very slow pace of WHO and the international community, and for failing to release funds to help combat the disease.
But this does not make sense. Several million dollars have so far been collected by State House from individuals and organisations who have donated to the Ebola Fund. Those funds are yet to be accounted for.
In his speech to the nation a few weeks ago, the president promised to set up a bank account that will be opened for ALL to see and scrutinise. Where is that bank account? And how has the funds donated so far been spent?
People are not fools, especially those that have parted with their hard earned cash to be spent on saving lives. Now we are being told that the government needs almost $20 million.
We must stop this corrupt practice of driving all the way to State House to hand over cash to the ‘Pa’. This is how corruption is being encouraged – and God forbids – the president can easily become corrupted. We don’t want that now – do we?
So it is important that the Pa should tell the nation, which bank the funds are being held; the account number; and the sort code, so that everyone – irrespective of how much they can afford and their station in life, can contribute without any undue political sleight of hand or otherwise.
This way, we can promote transparency, openness and probity.
Not that we don’t trust the Pa, but we should not put him in such compromising position, with such large sums of money.
There are many corrupt government officials who are now licking their grubby fingers, waiting to finish building their mansions using Ebola funds. Let us not give them the opportunity.
But it is also perplexing to see that the government is waiting for $20 Million from the international community, before it can begin to save the lives of its people.
We have seen in the past, when the government finds itself cash strapped, requesting billions of leones from the central bank, through the sale of treasury bills and bonds.
What’s different this time with citizens dying like flies? Wake up Mr President – please wake up.
Why are you waiting for donor funds? Get your finance minister and governor of the bank of Sierra Leone to issue 20 million dollars worth of longterm government bonds immediately. Call it Ebola bonds.
Financial institutions such as the African Development Bank, Opec Funds, the Arab Development Bank, and many others will be clamouring to buy our Ebola bonds at reasonable rate of interest.
For the government to sit and wait for the international community to cough up 20 million dollars to save the lives of our people, is not acceptable.
The death of Dr. Cole comes just hours after the Sierra Leone Telegraph suggested that he should be given the Zmapp drug or other derivative to help save his life. sadly this was not to be. He is said to have gone into coma last night.
The precious lives of Dr. Cole, Dr. Khan and the scores of medical staff caught up in the war against Ebola, must not go in vain.
Do the right thing Mr. President. You have the moral imperative to call upon both your minister of finance and the bank governor to sell 20 million dollars worth of what should be referred to as Ebola bonds.
This money will then be used to pay for much needed protective wear, equipment, upgrading of hospitals and health centres, and to provide immediate respite for the children and families of ebola victims.
The funds raised should also be used to pay for uplifting the salaries of all Ebola frontline staff, including those taking care of the dead.
It is times like this, we should all feel proud as Sierra Leoneans to support our government to borrow money to spend wisely on a worthy cause, than to shamelessly go cap in hand begging.
Let us not wait for donors, while we watch our brothers and sisters die needlessly. Where is our national pride, Mr. President?
This article echoes the thoughts of Sierra Leoneans all over the world.
In fact, the government should have bent over backwards to allow safe passage of Dr Cole to the USA to allow him get the best treatment – every cent paid for by the Sierra Leone government.
Surely, after the death of Dr Khan, the death of a second doctor should not have been allowed?
All I can say is RIP. I feel so sad.