Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 January 2015
Officials at the ministry of health and sanitation are busy scratching their heads, thinking about how best to explain the huge discrepancy in the total cumulative number of Ebola cases, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says has reached over 9,700, while the government instead telling the world it is 7,600.
But it seems, they are also beginning to think about post-Ebola Sierra Leone – how best to build a resilient health system. (Photo: Health minister).
What is perplexing though, is the fact that the accusation of gross under-reporting of Ebola by the government of Sierra Leone is nothing new.
Since the start of the crisis, the media and international health agencies have been running out of breath – blowing the whistle and raising the red flag on president Koroma and his ministers to come clean on Ebola.
But surprisingly, nothing has changed – not even the so called military regimental discipline that was expected of the retired Major Palo Conteh – now head of the national Ebola response centre, has made an iota of difference to the serious and almost criminal, under-reporting of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.
Can the government manage that which they cannot measure, or perhaps the real question should be – is the government truly in charge, or are they simply stitching up the numbers as they go along?
It may be pathetically possible to cover up 20 Ebola cases in Sierra Leone, but to literally wipe out over 2,000 Ebola cases from the statistics, and keep getting away with it, is nothing short of spectacular audaciousness.
But why such grotesque lies about the scale of Ebola in Sierra Leone?
Is it because as a government we feel we can do it and get away with it, and still get a pat on the back from the likes of the heads of the World Bank and the UN?
Once, international agencies were being accused of rewarding mediocrity in Africa. But it seems that now, they are rewarding anything, as long as it suits their agenda. How sad.
If the international community cannot stop such massive and grotesque Ebola fraud now, what will happen in 2017, when the people of Sierra Leone go to the polls to elect a new government?
Will the ruling APC party be allowed once again, to deny the democratic will of the people of Sierra Leone through electoral fraud?
‘Ebola fraud’ – ‘electoral fraud’, there is no difference – same goal, same strategy and same result.
Since the massive 2007 electoral fraud – ‘cut ya put ya’ – which the opposition claimed, denied them of hundreds of thousands of votes, it seems nothing has changed.
The culture of cheating to gain an advantage, seems well entrenched. And the international community does not seem to have the will or appetite to nip it in the bud either.
But, be that as it may, and notwithstanding the problem of looking for an explanation as to how more than 2,500 Ebola cases may have vanished from the government’s figures, for the ministry of health and sanitation, it is time to also look ahead.
According to report from the ministry, it held its first ‘Health Sector Strengthening’ partners meeting last Friday, January 2, 2015, in the Ministry’s conference room in Freetown, following calls by the WHO, for each country in West Africa that is affected by the Ebola virus to begin to formulate a national strategic plan, along with their local partners, for building the nation’s health sector – post Ebola – ‘a Vision for 2015-2016 and beyond’.
The meeting was attended by senior health ministry officials, health development partners, the private sector, and civil society groups.
Health minister – Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah is said to have presented his Vision for 2015-2020 to partners, civil society groups and professional heads of the Ministry, with WHO leading the process.
Working groups were tasked with the responsibility of developing plans within the frame work of the Minister’s Vision, in building capacity for a resilient health system in Sierra Leone.
The Chief Medical Officer – Dr. Brima Kargbo, described the event as “a situation for the ministry and health development partners to brace up for the post Ebola era in meeting the challenges ahead.”
He noted that 2014 was very challenging, and called on the working groups to assess and review both past and current plans, with a view to developing strategies that would help achieve the ministry’s vision.
Dr. Kargbo expressed his appreciation for the continued support of partners to help achieve the milestones, and called for more comprehensive approach in building up capacity for a resilient health system – both within the public and private sectors.
The WHO Cluster Head of Health System Strengthening – Dr. Tenniin Gakuru, called for transparent actions, with regard to the ministry’s multi-year plan in building a resilient system for health in Sierra Leone, based on community engagement and ownership, desk review situation analysis at central level, as well as a joint programme framework.
The meeting discussed participatory approach to addressing Sierra Leone’s environmental health and sanitation challenges, readiness of public and private health services in communities, integrated social mobilization programme, sustainability of community blood donor association for current and post Ebola.
Participants also discussed the need for further research on post-Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to evaluate services, patient and health workers safety, mechanisms for patient complaints, filling the high job vacancies for hospital staff, strengthening outreach services, mental health – especially community mental health services, and strong community empowerment in line with the government’s Agenda for Prosperity.
The way forward for a Post-Ebola Sierra Leone will require honest and sincere national dialogue. The government of Sierra Leone should be preparing for this.