As Coronavirus enters Sierra Leone… Time for Our Politicians to Act Now

With the agility and speed of its spread, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has sent the entire world into shock.

Since it emerged in humans in China in late 2019, it has raced around the globe, killing thousands of people, sickening hundreds of thousands more, prompting travel bans and lockdowns. “International gatherings and sports events have been cancelled, more than 290 million children are not in school, and markets are reeling and it’s estimated that the epidemic could cost the world economy US$2 trillion,” a recent UN report says.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently describes COVID-19 as: “The defining global health crisis of our time”.

The serious spread of COVID 19 across the globe is now a cause for concern – the number of new cases and the death rates around the world continues to escalate by the day. Over 40 African countries now have the pandemic, including most West African countries having confirmed cases with Sierra Leone on Wednesday, April 01, 2020 reported its second case of the COVID – 19.

For us in Sierra Leone, the Government of His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio has worked proactively and robustly towards putting preventive measures and national response plans to the fight against the outbreak of the Corona Virus in Sierra Leone.

In furtherance of this action, the President has also declared a Public State of Emergency which has been ratified by Parliament. The President’s proclamation is aimed at enforcing public health contingency measures that will keep the country safe and secure from the spread of this inhumane virus.

But in all of this, most of our politicians, especially MPs and Council members who are supposed to be the grassroots leaders are yet to do anything tangible in their various constituencies and wards to fight against this pandemic.

Apart from the rules and regulations put in place by Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as preventive measures, much has not been seen in our various communities being represented by MPs and Councilors who are the grassroots politicians. Even when individuals are contributing in various communities to buying buckets, soaps and sanitizers for hand washing as some the preventive measures, it is noticeable that little or nothing is being done by MPs and Councilors to supporting their constituencies in that direction.

Perhaps they are waiting for Government to disburse money to Parliament and Councils towards the fight before they will act, forgetting their election promises to serve the interest of their people. The question many are asking now is: Are our MPs and Councillors, Mayors and Chairpersons of Councils going to wait for Government to disburse money to them to fight the pandemic before they can act?

I believe this is the right time for them and other political representatives, including presidential appointees like Ministers and CEOs to care for their people by doing everything humanly possible to prevent the virus from spreading in the country.

One simple way of caring for the wellbeing of their people is providing hand sanitizers, face masks, disinfectants and materials to help maintain good hygiene in our respective communities across the country. Buying buckets and placing them at strategic junctions and public places where the public can access them easily, shouldn’t be a big deal. Such buckets should have community volunteers to look after them and to deal with defaulters.

MPs and council members should put hands on deck fully in the interest of their people they claim to represent in Parliament and in Councils. They should not wait for their people to start asking questions about their reluctance to help them fight the virus from spreading across the country before they jump into action when it will be too late. If during political campaigns, politicians can muster the courage or will and not hesitate to buy locally or order campaign materials from abroad worth thousands of United States Dollars, such as party T-shirts, Bags, Caps, Umbrellas and other Souvenirs and give freely to supporters and well-wishers in order to secure their votes, why can’t they sacrifice money to also protect those they have vowed to serve faithfully from the looming calamity sweeping across the globe?

By and large, our political representatives need to double -up their efforts in fighting to prevent the spread of COVID 19 in our country;  they should not wait for Government to empower them financially
before they go into action. The first step of this one-thousand-mile journey must start with them at community levels before their efforts would be complemented by either Government or players in the private sector in the form of corporate social responsibilities. They should not wait for the outbreak before they start making effort; otherwise, they would betray the people who they claim to be representing in Government.

Our politicians must demonstrate a high level of leadership by playing their roles and ensure we prevent escalation of the outbreak. As other politicians have done globally, the battle against COVID -19 is a war that must be fought by all and on all fronts. COVID-19 has shown itself in the world as not only a health emergency but also an economic emergency.

To me, it’s important for the various political parties to join forces with the government to help tackle the pandemic. And one of the groups that require serious engagement is political parties. It is because political parties among other things have a very large following who sometimes belief their following more than health experts.

We should, as a nation, have in mind that COVID 19 doesn’t know our political affiliations or colours; it doesn’t know tribe, region and religion. That’s why I believe that political parties should not take the back seat in this fight. And I also believe that, the Government should bring everybody on board to fight this national battle. The fight against Corona shouldn’t be politicized at all. This is how I see it.

Note : The author is Sierra Leone’s former Press Attaché  to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and can be reached on email : assijay82@gmail.com  on WhatsApp : 00966567672815

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Critique Echo Newspaper is a major source of news and objective analyses about governance, democracy and human-right. Edited and published in Kenema city, eastern Sierra Leone, the outlet is generally referred to as a level plying ground for the youths, women and children.

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