A Painful Experience, Could it Have Made a Difference, had Things Been done Differently From the Onset

Dr._GassamaI write with a heavy heart, one full of sorrows knowing pretty well how many countrymen have succumbed to this frightful epidemic; The Ebola Virus. As a true Sierra Leonean and from the bottom of my heart, my condolences go to all who have lost relatives to the dreadful Ebola epidemic. During this trouble times, I would like all readers to know that my article serves not as a critique, but a comfort to the nation. I would therefore be very troubled and it would be copiously diabolical if any reader in anyway uses my words at any time, in any particular place, and to any particular people as a political weapon. At this particular time, all Sierra Leoneans must keep politics at bay, and work as a single unit to combat this particular epidemic before it consumes our nation. There is a single enemy for all Sierra Leoneans at the moment; Ebola and fight it together we must.

Since the emergence of the Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone, many have died, many are sick, and still many to this moment carry the virus unknown to them, and to the general public. Additionally, some methods of transmitting the virus have been discovered while others and a cure or vaccine still remain mysteries; mysteries yet to be debunked. Worst still, viruses that linger around for a long time do mutate. We pray that this not be the case with the Ebola Virus, and that God takes it from out of our midst sooner. Readers who might be familiar with the Bubonic Plague years in Europe should know quite well what I am talking about. Of all our studies, History should be considered as the most important in that it serves to help us avoid the errors of the past, and emulate all those comprehensive strategies that served societies well.

Theories behind the Ebola epidemic in West Africa point that it emanated in neighbouring Guinea with fruit eating bats as agents. It still remains a wonder to me how humans can feed on bats. I like many others just can't fathom it. It will be quite in place if the Guinean authorities embark on a serious campaign to educate their people on what they should eat and what not to eat. If this is done, the risks of animal borne viruses affecting humans will be zero, or at least be reduced to minimal.

These said, the question still remains whether anything could have been done to avoid the virus crossing the border to Sierra Leone and causing such a Helter Skelter as it has at the moment. In the Congo where the virus first made a debut in the 1970s, authorities were known to have made the area a NO GO IN and NO GO OUT ZONE with essential medical personnel and food suppliers as aberrations. It worked. The virus was contained in no time with reduced casualties. In such cases, rules must be in place that people should be forced to follow. The reason why the Kailahun area became the epicentre of the Ebola Virus was because the Guinean village where the disease started lies just nearby. Had serious measures been taken, the disease would have been prevented from crossing over and thus kept at bay. Closing the borders with Guinea would have been the best thing to do. According to a banal saying "There is no brother in the army."  I am sure the authorities must have thought that closing the borders with Guinea would have caused bad feelings on the side of the Guineans, or worst still economic hardship by way of interrupting petty trading. I am positive that had this been done, the lives of those sierra Leoneans who have died would have been spared.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I am not holding the head of state responsible for this. This is why in fact he has appointed individuals to work with him when making such crucial decisions. Additionally, there was the Minister of Health who was supposed to have known that failure to close those borders was the same as inviting calamity. This is poignant, but I have to say it, she bears part of the blame. It was not sage or prudent to leave those borders open with people going to Guinea to attend Ebola funerals, and coming back with the virus. It is however unfortunate that because of this, our people are dying in the hundreds. One man cannot rule by himself. This makes it necessary to have able bodied individuals to help with this process. Calamity befalls when these helpers because of lack of experience or attention fail to rightly perform their duties. Such people have no place in societies.

Kudos to the powers that be for closing the borders at last, although this could have made a mightier difference had it been done earlier. In His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma's own words "Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures." In this case, the "Extraordinary measures" came absolutely too late for our people who are dying in unknowingly high numbers by the minutes. With an incapable Health Minister, should the president have used his power as commander in Chief to seal the borders from the onset? Categorically YES. The call should be his at all times. This is especially so when the matter involves protecting the lives of all Sierra Leoneans. With all due respect to His Excellency, my brotherly advice is for him to go back and assess his team members keeping those he truly deems capable if any, and disposing  of the incompetents. This will be an "Extraordinary measure" that will go to benefit the nation. I have no doubts that he, like most of us, loves Sierra leone with all his heart. Nevertheless, his golden plan for a progressive Sierra Leone will never

come to fruition without a selfless and formidable team. A man who loves his country will pride in it being the best in all aspects of life. A good captain can only carry the team to victory with dedicated and lion hearted players. It goes without saying that the captain cannot serve as the GOALIE, CENTER FORWARD and ALL at the same time. If he tries to, he will soon crash for good. That is why captains and team directors select their team members and keep them based on performance and not sentiments, if they should be or remain winners. Worst still, do not let these selected team members of yours foresake you before you can dump them. If you do, they will feel triumphant, and boast that it was their call to, not yours. So being, their resumes will portray them not as bad workers who were let go because they failed to perform their duties to the nation as described in their employee handbooks, but because it was their wishes to go. Whatever you do, think about the nation first, not who you know or who knows you. Hiring dedicated workers regardless of your differences will help you bring your AGENDA FOR PRORPERITY to fruition. Governments in the western world are made up of sassy or confident and energetic team members from even opposition parties. What matters is that the progress of their nation is paramount to them, not that super ego trip of enriching themselves. The belief that they cannot do well anywhere else while the period of their manning those positions is curt and snippy, leaves them with no option but embezzling all they can while it lasts. At the same time, the streets are full of POWERLESS and AMPUTATED HUNGRY CITIZENS who cannot afford a meal, the hills of Freetown are full of mansions owned by people who supposedly earn less than $2ooo a month. Is that mathematically sound? Of course NOT. They certainly have been given lemons and they are making lemonade out of it. The fact is, that is bitter lemonade, and most of them will answer for it. Allah knows best. My point is that Sierra Leoneans from all works of life are getting less than what they deserve. Our children need hi- tech air conditioned schools, our teachers, policemen, and soldiers need to be better paid, our people need potable water, electricity, and good hospitals, not the ones our colonial masters left for us, LEFTOVERS I call them. How can you blame a policeman or policewoman taking bribe when he or she earns less than what can feed his/her family a month? How can teachers perform to perfection when they and their families cannot afford full course meals?  With corrupt Government Officials out of the way, replaced by dedicated, God fearing, and nation loving ones, our people can live better with everyone ending up a winner.                     

  The Rebel War in Sierra Leone was no epidemic. Nevertheless, that did not stop the Guinean authorities at a point in time from closing their borders with Sierra Leone. That is something for all Sierra Leoneans to remember on a positive note. By positive note, I mean they still remain our brothers and deserve to be helped and comforted when the need arises. Had the virus not crossed over to Sierra Leone, we could have used the little resources we are now using to fight it in helping our Guinean brothers.

However, we shouldn’t stop short of thanking the Guineans for hosting Sierra Leoneans who fled to avoid the atrocities of the demonic and fiendish RUF. Many people felt bad about His Excellency Sheik Professor Yaya Jammeh closing his borders to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. However, in the end, he sent us a check of five hundred thousand dollars. That was very generous of him. That is a brother. Had he left his people open to the virus, that check would have gone to fight their cause, not ours. May Allah bless him here and the hereafter.

While we pay much attention to eliminating the Ebola Virus, we must never let go of the fact that Sierra Leone is a great and proud nation. We emerged from a Rebel War dubbed the worst the world has ever seen, dusted ourselves, and kept on with life. It will be the same with the current situation with the Ebola Virus. Allah willing, Ebola will go away leaving us disheartened for the precious lives lost, but with an unshaken will and pride. As a proud nation, one thing we must learn is to take care of ourselves, and those among us who are less fortunate. Proud people can take hand- outs sometimes, but not always, and must set a time frame to be economically independent. After this epidemic, we must show the world that with us everything positive is possible, that Ebola is just a misfortune that came to us because being a good nation, we tried to comfort our sister country by not closing our borders.

 The lesson we must learn out of the current situation is that surprise can beat even the strongest man. One must therefore be always prepared to face unforeseen herculean situations such as we are having at the present time. The most important factor in the growth of any civilize nation is the health of its citizens. This means having high tech medical facilities. I will conclude my article therefore by inviting all Sierra Leonean citizens who can afford it to form a coalition with me in accomplishing one goal. This goal will be putting funds together to construct the most advance High-TECH MEDICAL COMPLEX  yet to exist in West Africa if not the whole of Africa. This can be done by a coalition of all willing Sierra Leoneans depositing money in a particular public fund that can be opened in a local bank. The account should be accessible to the media so that the balance in the account is made public on a daily basis. Contributors must keep their receipt handy in case of any future controversies. Names of contributors can be published daily with the amount contributed, unless the contributor does not want his name published. In that case, the contributor will be anonymous with the amount made public. I will volunteer to be the first contributor with an undisclosed but generous amount to start up the account. This will come after all modalities are in place. At the end of this article will be my email. Those who are willing to help me bring this project to fruition are free to contact me via email. I will reply to all emails as quickly as I can. For now all what is necessary is for people to show their willingness to contribute. 

Though this is not a political issue, nothing can certainly be done until we get the blessing of the President of the Republic to go ahead. More so, it will be very appropriate if he becomes the only signatory to this account. As I don't know the email address of His Excellency, I would with all humbleness appreciate his contacting me through my email. This way, we would be able to discuss how he can help to make this a reality. When the account is opened, the account details will be made public to make it possible for people to make donations. A website will be created to make it possible for the public to follow up with account activities. Allah willing, the building of the facility should start in the early part of 2015. While some who are pessimistic might consider this as a project hard to accomplish, I say" YES gassamas@gmail.comMy contact email is  WE CAN."  

About CEN 755 Articles
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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