It must now be clear to everyone – sceptics included, that not only is the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and come to think of it, with the current cases in Nigeria – one could say in West Africa, is now the business and concern of everybody to join in the fight to eradicate the disease.
The whole of Sierra Leone is now at risk, because just as it only takes a spark to cause a forest conflagration, Ebola requires no more than one infected person to affect a whole community.
Incidentally, that is the way it has been spreading, through initial contact with one affected person.
Hospital staff are succumbing to the attack, and our own social behaviour through sentimental and emotional family considerations, has only exacerbated the situation.
The death of an infected patient who had been to the Nixon Memorial Methodist hospital in Segbwema, has led to the two members of staff who were in contact with him to be taken away, along with other members of his family for testing and observation.
Whilst I was in Kailahun last Friday, news of an infected patient in Pendembu led to her entire household being taken to the treatment unit in Kailahun.
It is this scourge, the hosting and concealing of family members with suspected or outright infection that is making the containment of the infection very difficult.
I arrived in Kailahun shortly after President Bai Koroma’s brief visit to the district headquarters, which houses one of the treatment units that also hosts the medical team of “Doctors without Borders (MSF).”
I applaud his statement to the people, which was not only very NON-PARTISAN, but a rallying call to the people to change their attitude to the Ebola outbreak, and to unite and cooperate with the professional people in the fight to contain and eradicate the virus in the country.
From comments and reactions which I gathered over my four day stay there, I was left in no doubt that the people now have a better understanding of the situation, and were as determined as the government and the health workers to bring the crisis to a speedy end.
His Excellency must also be commended for listening to and following the advice of some well meaning of his subjects, especially with regards the decision to cancel his planned visit to the United States for the planned African – American summit in Washington DC.
Sierra Leone is a very secular religious country, and it was gratifying that various religious leaders are invoking Divine intervention from God/Allah in the fight against Ebola.
But, whilst I applauded the decision to set last Monday aside as a day of Prayer and Meditation, I would have thought that an ecumenical Service in the National Stadium could have been a more fitting climax to our day of Meditation.
I had commented previously that one reason for the initial lack of cooperation from the people in the affected area, was to do with the negativity with which some of the messages were put across.
For example; I would never have used the words “NO CURE FOR THIS SICKNESS” at the beginning of my exhortation.
A different approach could have said: ‘although we had a very dangerous disease to deal with, yet those who received early treatment stood a better chance of cure.’
I had also commented, and it was a point that one of our doctors confirmed at a one day workshop, on the way the symptoms were presented to the public.
Quite frankly, there was too much emphasis on “Blood in the vomit and stool”, when the phrase should simply have said: “May be present.”
That could have made a significant difference, because our illiterate brothers and sisters are looking for blood, rather than focusing on the vital signs – vomiting and diarrhoea.
Finally, let me haste to add that, as would be expected of all patriotic citizens, I have offered my services to my colleague – the chief medical officer, to help with the education and awareness campaign.
But sadly, I have not been favoured with the courtesy of even an acknowledgement of my request.
It may be that they already have enough people in the field?