My beautiful and beloved country of Sierra Leone is still not ready for the fight against the persistent virus that is rapidly killing our innocent citizens in their hundreds if not in their thousands. With the health infrastructures virtually in shambles coupled with the demoralized medical community due to decades of ineffective governing systems and ineffective political leadership; Ebola will continue to drain many more of our already very limited human resources before it finally reaches its “battle of waterloo.” Actions that translate into results such as controlling the infection rate and early intervention treatments are what health officials in Sierra Leone must focus in doing right now.
Indeed, the World Bank Group is mobilizing a $400 million financing package for the countries hardest hit by this crisis, including $230 million announced in August 2014 and an additional $170 million announced in September 2014. Of the $400 million, $117 million is already in the countries, including $58 million for Liberia, $34 million for Sierra Leone, and $25 million for Guinea. The African Development Bank (ADB) has already transferred $ 4.2 million to Sierra Leone to help stem the spread of the Ebola Virus. The European Union (EU) has facilitated the transportation of relief items worth more than $ 30 million to West Africa and has pledged about $200 million to help the affected countries including Sierra Leone.
Additionally, the United Kingdom (UK) has pledged about $180 million to support the global effort to contain, control and defeat the Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone. The troubling question that is on every body’s mind is: Do the people who are at the helm of governance have the vision and character to combat this health crisis at this point in time? Never been tested before on serious national challenges, can APC rise up to the occasion and kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone? Are they sufficiently sensitive and competent enough to make good decisions that will save lives and control the spread of this malicious virus? When will the rapid infection rate slow down?
Is Sierra Leone’s international credibility being questioned when the Bill and Melinda Gate foundation preferred to send its $50 million donation to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the effort to fight against Ebola instead of the government? The World Bank and other International financial Institutions are concern whether funds given for the Ebola Response Projects will be used for the intended purpose. Why is the Founder of Face Book, Mark Zuckerberg pledging $25 million to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, USA to fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and not specifically sending the money to affected countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea?
I suspect with every amount of certainty that wealthy donors and International partners do not trust Africa governments who are known for starving their people and transferring illegitimate state resources into their Switzerland bank accounts. I am deeply worried about the reported and sometimes untold suffering our people are going through due to the absence of suitable human resource capacities like credibility and transparency, honesty, brotherly love, and ethically committed leadership. What about the health work force – Are there sufficiently skilled medical professionals accessible to every Sierra Leonean in all villages, sections, chiefdoms in our country? With the few health care workers available, do they have the incentives and clinical support to do their jobs safely and securely?
Do we have well trained health care workers in all one hundred and forty-nine chiefdoms in our country, adequately equipped with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) and other medical supplies to support the professionals and enable them to carry out the painful tasks involved in the fight against an invisible enemy which seems determined to carry on a very long and protracted battle? Where is the government’s regulatory effort to stop health care workers from providing home care support to suspected Ebola patient in violation of the medical procedures and protocols to follow strict anti-Ebola infection and control measures?
What about medical administrators who record and store correct and relevant information to enable us to retrieve the necessary data on all phases of the disease as and when necessary?
What about those courageous men who carry out the disposal of waste and the burial of corpses – Are they well equipped and trained about the dangerous duty they are involved in? Why are they not receiving their pay on a regular basis? And why do some of them have to charge illegal fees to pick up corpses from bereaved Ebola families? How about incentives for the risks they put themselves in as they try to perform such admirable tasks which many of us will not be ready to perform? Have our decision makers thought about the effect of Ebola on the environment given that our capital city lies just a few feet above sea level and the water we consume could possibly be contaminated? It is discouraging to see on social media a floating corpse of an Ebola victim with household trash along drainage water lines close to neighborhoods and poor communities.
Indeed, a war that is fought without “a battle plan” and without the sophisticated weapons cannot be won so easily. And let us not forget that there is a spiritual dimension to our predicament. We must sincerely call upon the Almighty God who in biblical days has rescued nations from plagues when they had offended Him. That same God will have to come to our rescue before Ebola will disappear from our majestic shores. Can Ebola therefore be seen as a wakeup call that God wants us to change our wicked ways? Does he want to let us know that he is the God of the universe and the creator of every living soul and animals? Certainly, a deadly virus reminds us of a power greater than ourselves and the need to elevate our spiritual outreach to the God of mercy and compassion.
This dreadful disease has not only exposed our weaknesses institutionally, but has tested our human capabilities internally. It is clear to all that the political leadership in all countries in our sub region has woefully failed the people by their unpreparedness in dealing with the Ebola crisis. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea now understand that political power is not about dividing citizens into ethnic rivals and mismanaging state resources – but providing the health care infrastructure with equipped hospitals, trained doctors and nurses that will care for its citizens before and during national emergency. That by creating the conditions that eliminates poverty and building the foundation of a sustainable health care system – diseases like Ebola will be defeated easily without any difficulties.
In addressing the World Bank round table recently, President Koroma said: “the fight on the ground in Sierra Leone urgently needs the support of people gathered here today to combat this virus; without you we cannot succeed, without your quick response, a tragedy unforeseen in modern times would threaten the wellbeing and compromise the security of people everywhere.” President Koroma’s observation is realistically evident of the new Ebola cases that have been identified in the United States and Spain. Ebola is clearly becoming not only a regional threat, but a global health security problem that needs everyone’s attention and collective effort to combat and control from engulfing other nations.
But, it is also true that without proper accountability of such prospective funds and without a God fearing heart full of divine love, no amount of money will solve our Ebola heath emergency. Even if we receive billions of dollars every day – without a genuine goodwill toward the calamity that the Ebola virus has caused and without people in government who are honest and forthright, Ebola will continue to be an uninvited stranger in our homeland. If the government of Sierra Leone can allocate almost $14 thousand dollars to every Member of Parliament on what it calls “a sensitization program” without using such needed funds to build holding, processing and treatment Ebola centers across the country, I have to say that we have a serious human resource problem in terms of making a sound compassionate reasoning.
One is tempted to ask the question: Is this government really working for the people or merely addicted to the political culture of the money making bonanza? The purpose of every modern government is to protect its citizens from diseases that create unimaginable hardship including death. Ebola should not be seen as an opportunity to wreck havoc on the financial generosity of both the local and the international community at large. Invariably, International donor funds and expertise are needed, but the biggest asset is: can our government translate these resources into defeating Ebola and saving our people? The government of President Koroma is, indeed, far from helping to bring the Ebola crisis under control due to its unprepared strategic response and less than credible people with the integrity to articulating the aspirations of the local and the International community.
Personally, as a Sierra Leonean living in America, I am always amazed to think that the United States used to be a poor country only one century ago with the same problems that many developing nations have – corruption, poverty, diseases, homelessness and incompetent leadership. They had the race problem which divided their society and fought wars that ruined their economy and destroyed their infrastructures. But America transformed itself into the wealthiest nation on earth because of its human resource capacities through an industrialized revolution pioneered through hard work, developing a culture of integrity, building strong democratic institutions, respecting the rule of law and sharing a compassionate heart to the less privileged among them.
These are intrinsic human values that dwell in every heart beat across borders and nationalities. Every nation has the human resource ability to institute changes and Sierra Leone is no exception. Rightly so, Sierra Leone cannot be like America but it can duplicate the character and personality of how America became wealthy and prosperous or how they were able to stand up to the challenges of their tumultuous era that inspired generations. Ebola can only be eradicated in Sierra Leone if most of these heartless politicians change their lust for money and their self-serving philosophy that every effort must be compensated with money. Sierra Leone must develop the cultural thinking and the fundamental purpose to genuinely use the legitimate resources of the people to identify, isolate, prevent and control a deadly virus that is costing so many lives.
The much needed local human resource capabilities must be complimented with the International donor support against the Ebola virus disease. That is how the battle could be won. It is the best strategy to winning the war against the deadliest disease the world has ever recorded. What Sierra Leone needs now is not only international donor funds and planes loaded with medical logistics, but a new ethical behavior of a transparent, credible and honest leadership anchored on the righteous principle of compassionate conservatism. This is the strongest moral gravity through which the “people’s gift” can be utilized to ameliorate the depraved and degrading Ebola condition in Sierra Leone. This business of hiding the truth and the culture of romanticizing “lies” and “dishonesty” is an obstacle to winning the fight against Ebola.
Both the local and international community including millions of patriotic Sierra Leoneans are doubtful and concerned about the proper accountability of public resources with these third generation politicians who are obsessed about accumulating ill gotten wealth at the mercy of dying Ebola victims, especially when the prevailing disease does not affect them or their families. On a personal note, as I was listening to my youngest son’s school teacher discussing to me about his academic performance recently at our Parent/Teacher conferencing, Sierra Leone came to my mind from a human resource perspective. I was thinking about how many children in Sierra Leone have the opportunity to be loved and cared for to the extent that their progress matters to the general welfare of their schools and communities.
That a third grade teacher genuinely wants her student to succeed not because of the color of his skin or the national origin of his parent, but because she believes that it is her duty to educate and nurture him to be the best. This is the human factor that is generally missing in Sierra Leone today – that we can also do selfless things for the utilitarian good of society that benefit everyone and not only ourselves or our families. We can certainly apply such worthy principles to the mission of eradicating Ebola in Sierra Leone. Ebola today is killing our people and destroying the future of our promising children, women and youths. We are crying from the hilltop of our nation and feel helpless because we have been betrayed by our leaders for over 50 years.
As we witness the lines of shallow graves and the stenches of death which look like a war of genocide. And as fear riddles the clouded minds of the poor rural farmer in Daru, Kailahun and the hungry children across our nation, there is hope in the horizon. There is a rainbow across the weeping sky of our troubled nation. Sierra Leone will rise against every odd and impossibility. We cannot grab Ebola by the neck as it silently kills our innocent people, but we can defeat it with our abiding faith in God and our sincere determination to change our ugly past. This disease has exposed the darkest hearts of men and women who hold positions of prominence. It would seem as if their main purpose for being in governance is for serving themselves as they continue to demonstrate very little compassion to the unbearable plight of our people.
Nonetheless, what Ebola can do today is to kill and destroy human lives, but it cannot change the destiny of Sierra Leone. Rising up from the wrath of this disease, we will be a new nation that will inspire many other nations in Africa and elsewhere. Leaders are going to be born and spiritually nurtured to turn against greed and corruption; work divinely to change poverty into opportunity and despair into hope. Sierra Leone will emerge as the world’s new research and development center against more potent diseases than Ebola. The world will see how this coward disease has created a fortress of genuine love among Sierra Leoneans. We will advance a new renaissance of social liberation for women, girls and boys.
We will love each other more than ever before. Our ethnic diversity will embolden us to offer different perspectives to our national aspirations. We are going to come out stronger and more prosperous after the Ebola outbreak is over. And corrupt governments in Sierra Leone will vanished and the people will no longer be lured into voting for people because of the language they speak or the region they belong to. Sierra Leone will come to see that what makes us the same people are far greater than what divides us as Ebola taught us that no one is immune from disease and death. The twin evil of tribalism and nepotism will be marginalized by new ethical leaders who will care about the alliance of our diversity and not the pride of our ethnicity.
The Ebola story will resonate in the majestic hearts of many Sierra Leoneans who will come to appreciate the power and understanding of mutual love bound by a common commitment to a better Sierra Leone. The constitutional and moral duty of protecting the health of Sierra Leoneans will be the new national agenda for the future. Sierra Leone will have the best hospitals in Africa and its epidemiologists will serve disease stricken regions like our present military role in Darfur and Somalia today. And as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said: “Only light can put out darkness.” Ebola is killing us today, but when the battle is over, the radiant light of human progress will shine so bright on that beautiful land called Sierra Leone.
The author can be reached at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.