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With George S. Khoryama……..

Like the rebel war the Ebola virus is gradually over running the country from its base in the Kailahun district; and the fact that that district has now become a by-word for the evil things that have so far befallen our country Sierra Leone very much touch on our sensibilities as citizens of the district where ever we may be living. The question still remains: WHY KAILAHUN DISTRICT?
With that question in mind, one begins to get edgy over the threat of the Ebola scourge having already claimed the lives of its victims in the city of Freetown among other places outside the epic centers in the eastern provinces of Kenema and Kailahun.
Over the last week or two, Ebola cases were reported at Kissy Road involving an Egyptian doctor, a hairdresser at the Kingharman Road hospital and another at Sumaila Town all in Freetown among other cases. Others may have died under cover and quietly buried; while still others may be in hiding from the authorities and privately treated howbeit dangerously. The victims were bundled into the ambulance and taken across the Western Area, Western Rural, northern and southern provinces all the way to Kenema in the east for either observation or burial.
It goes without saying that the consequences of an outbreak of Ebola in Freetown (may God forbid) will be fatal as to dwarf the Kailahun and Kenema cases combined. Remember that the threatening sword of the Ebola disease in Freetown is now in the possession of those relatives and friends that were traced at Kissy Road, Kingharman Road Hospital and Sumaila Town all of whom may have contracted the virus. Talk less about those that are still in hiding and others that are quietly arriving in town. These people are still freely mingling with others in public places including markets, congested buses and taxis, offices, places of worship, night clubs, etc. thereby spreading the disease.
The questions therefore are: What are the authorities doing to deal with a future outbreak in Freetown pronto? What preparations are being put in place by the authorities concerned other than taking infected victims all the way to Kenema some of whom may die even before they reach? Is there any plan to have an Ebola Treatment Centre or centers in Freetown well ahead of a likely outbreak? Are there workshops and seminars for the training of nurses and other health workers just in case of such an outbreak? How much sensitization and education have been put in place for the public some of whose members still do not believe Ebola is real? Are there sufficient gears and other sources of support for front line doctors, nurses and related health workers? Are there tracing teams now put in place to go after those that are in hiding?
These questions are very relevant against the background of the poor if not non-existing sensitisation/education programs about the Ebola pestilence at the time it showed its ugly and dangerous face in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. In their make-believe posturing at the time, the authorities hardly appreciated the threat of the disease to Sierra Leone when it had already devastated the lives of people in those neighbouring countries. Political rhetoric on the threat instead took hold of the authorities’ reaction to the disease. They claimed that everything was under control when as a matter of fact they were stingy with the truth. By the time they appreciated its deadly spiral, Ebola was already out of control in the Kailahun district; thus now spreading village by village, town by town, district by district.
The people of Freetown and adjacent communities therefore cannot wait to express their hope and aspiration to the authorities that those measures critical to stemming the Ebola disease in the city and adjacent communities are already being put in place before it is too late. Freetown has a population of over one million with overcrowded and depressed ghettos and slums clustered all around the city. An outbreak of Ebola in these communities will only compound our already unsanitary and disadvantaged conditions – no water, no light, no health centers, no public toilets, no jobs, etc. Like the rebel war, its final destination could well be in Freetown with consequences untold.
His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma during his Monday pray day visit to Kenema this week assured the people that his government in the next few days would be putting a new package together on Ebola that could hopefully end the scourge. That promise comes on top of billions and billions of Leones that have been contributed by government and our development partners to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to fight the disease; which is to say that Ebola Treatment Centers in Freetown and its surrounding communities among other preparations will be part of the President’s new Ebola package.
Meanwhile, the death of Dr. Sheik Umar Khan has only compounded the fears and apprehensions of the people about the Ebola pestilence; it has devastated the spirit of our surviving doctors, nurses and related health workers who man the front line in the battle against the disease; it has frustrated the commitment of other social workers who have put so much effort to combat the virus, thereby demanding extraordinary zeal and effort of all and sundry this time round.
The announcement Tuesday afternoon of the death of doctor Khan bullied many Sierra Leoneans to tearful spasm, frowned faces and despair over what the future may hold for this country in the fight to contain the disaster. The man had sacrificed his very life against all the odds to save the lives of his people only to become a victim of the very sacrifices.
No tribute therefore could be powerful enough to drive away the people’s sense of loss over Dr. Khan’s death, save for that national commitment and patriotism especially of those responsible for the difficult task of kicking the menace out of the country. Then and only then that Dr. Khan and all others who fell as a result of the Ebola scourge will rest peacefully in their graves and fittingly remembered.

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