Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Default Text Size
 
OOPS. Your Flash player is missing or outdated.Click here to update your player so you can see this content.
Featured Links:
Banner
ExpoNet
EXpoNet Services!
Banner
Subscribe Now
Subscribe Now.
The Invisible Enemy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Editorial
Written by Dr. Adonis Abboud.   
Monday, 03 November 2014 15:16

Just when I thought our good old Sierra Leone could not sink any lower than the demeaning decade-long civil war that stripped us of able-bodied compatriots, along comes Ebola to show that there are depths lower than that low.

Right now, no thanks to the dreaded virus, our streets and mortuaries are strewn with litany of bodies.

One question as we grapple with the devastating virus is: is it just a tragedy, a misfortune or is it something much bigger? Is there an invisible enemy lurking behind this disaster now and as a warning for the future? Are there invisible enemies that we have allowed to fester which are now haunting us or still lurking in the shadows?

These questions have become very pertinent not only because of the conspiracy theories that have been making the rounds of the Social Media through the addictive  Facebook, whatsApp , etc...but also because contrary to the hopes of some, the calamity is turning out to be something that cannot just be wished away or consigned to the back burner of our history like the last cholera epidemic or even the civil war.

Similarly, the destructive nature of the virus has turned it into a runaway train that is proving difficult to stop as we agonise and flail around in search of a formidable weapon against its speed and ferocity.

The twitching of structures has turned the country into a patient struggling to climb from a deathbed in the belief that its resurrection can be erroneously presented as a miracle healing.

It has exposed our default health system and unmasked the deficiencies that we have for long hidden behind the paint of transformation.

With public trust and optimism in short supply one thing is clear – the biggest challenge is not even the eradication of the unwanted guest as much as what happens post-Ebola. How do we deal with the inherent societal exposés that Ebola has laid bare? How do we tackle the invisible enemy – the unseen hand.

Having the task of management of the EBOLA crisis entrusted to the Minister of Defence was a wise move by H.E. The President. We all know that we need a Military fist to get our people to be disciplined and abide by the laws to control the situation in the safest way possible and save unnecessary loss of more lives.

Ludicrously enough, the proponents of this thinking have cleverly left out the international synergy in combating the outbreak and the huge financial outlay in assistance. What an invisible rationale. In the midst of such a devastating tragedy, politics is all that matters to some of those in authority. This is an unseen enemy that our society needs to eradicate.

The most tenacious optimists might begin to give up under the pressure of the calamities dotting the landscape.

However, historic moments like this, just like the civil war that nearly consumed our nation, have one peculiarity: they are thresholds for the breaking of links that can no longer cope with the pressures of our collective life.

Obviously there are lessons to be learnt in every challenge, no matter how daunting the immediate picture of such a scenario; which is why there is a need to pause and really examine our national societal ethos and governance.

Prior to the latest disaster, the prevailing view of Sierra Leone, even over a decade after our civil war, is that of a basket case in need of salvation, a land riven by hunger, poverty, victims of war and disease.

This corrosive image, so destructive to trade and tourism, has been fostered by a lethal combination of our helplessness, as portrayed by the continued dependence on foreign assistance as well as internationally acclaimed pandemic corruption.

It is why despite the strenuous efforts of the government in creating one of the very best enabling environment for investments, things have not been moving as fast and comprehensively as they should.

How come assistance were in a tail spin from those eager to build new structures for us but who turned a blind eye to the great issue of our tragedy and existing dilemma until they were literarily put to shame?

Anyway, the reality with us now is the Ebola epidemic and unlike some other issues, it is no longer the fear that dare not speak its name amidst the hordes of problems facing our poor Sierra Leone.

From indications it is not clear whether this crisis has reached its critical mass but as we watch and pray about how this destructive train will hit the buffers and what the bigger situation seems to be; there is a need for introspection.

There are compelling reasons to identify and imbibe the inherent lessons in the emergence of the disease, our reaction and handling of its development as well as the beneficial effects of overcoming the challenge.

The most ingenious solutions to a crisis start at the lowest ebb. Just before these solutions appear as a dot on the horizon, all adventures are possible as we have encountered in the course of tackling Ebola.

Therefore, as we continue the campaign to get rid of the Ebola virus, the biggest challenge today is not the eradication of the virus as much as it is the way we are going to behave in the Post EBOLA time which if done wisely will ensure a non-return of  this diabolical Virus and other deadly ones.

For one, how did our acclaimed health system fail so badly? What could we have done and said differently? Where was leadership and decisiveness when it was most needed to guide the culturally cynical populace through a rather strange situation?

With some focus on what we are going through now in the Mano River zone we find common breeding ground for not only EBOLA but any other hygiene related virus such as typhoid, cholera, malaria, Lassa fever. Etc.....


The lack of hygiene coupled with the indiscipline of our people makes us a prey for a lot of diseases. The origin of Ebola in the suburbs of our provinces, suggests the disease has a lot to do with poor sanitary condition and low standard of living.

So, if the standard of living in any place is poor, we’re no more talking only of Ebola, but also of other infectious diseases. Because Ebola is the one that is causing most of the havoc now, that’s why there is the big emphasis on it.

A significant share of ill health in slums stems from poor access to sanitation and clean drinking water. Flooded areas and ditches, latrines and septic tanks are key reservoirs that perpetuate infectious disease outbreaks. The high population density found in these areas and consequent overcrowding often trigger epidemic-prone infections such as we are witnessing.

Rotary International with the Rotary Club of Freetown in partnership with The Rotary Club of Fishers Indiana USA for the past 5 years have succeeded in giving over 100 Villages mostly in remote areas nation-wide the Privilege of access to clean water through their WATER IS LIFE PROJECT  becoming the only Non-Profit Humanitarian Organisation to participate in the Health and Sanitisation Campaign .

The rate of urbanisation makes it very challenging to manage. A recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine argued that urbanisation is a “health hazard for certain vulnerable populations, and this demographic shift threatens to create a humanitarian disaster”.

Anyway, annual budgetary allocations to health are still very paltry and this has seen developments in this area worsening.

For example, latest data from the Global Health observatory quotes our total expenditure on health per capita at $205 and the total expenditure on health as percentage of GDP at 15.1percent.

While official statistics, highlighting great strides sound convincing, the general consensus is that much has not been done in the health sector. Various reports by reputable international organisations, can give credence to it.

Access to food, safe drinking water and health institutions is limited even in urban areas not to talk of their virtual non-existence in the rural parts of the country. Can malnourished children with poor mental and physical development lead Sierra Leone’s future?

This country enjoyed energy and water up to the seventies. I remember we had 24/7 supply of power and water. Bunbuna which was supposed to rescue us from a damned blackout for four decades was the biggest failure of any contract in the history of this country. Of  my forty years since I first came to Sierra Leone I can comfortably say that only the first 8 years were the glorious ones. This country was indeed the Athens of West Africa. Parents could afford first class education for their Children in our Schools and Universities. Health care was at its best. Our children didn't have to study on the light of candle or risk the dangers of Kerosene lamps. Hygiene was the Order of the day. Even Nigerians and Ghanaians used to boast of having their children graduate in this blessed land.

Yes, mistakes in handling the pandemic were made especially since we were aware of the scourge while it was ravaging our neighbours. Guinea's first case occurred in December 2013. However, it is only in March that it was confirmed as an EBOLA case. April should have been the time where precautions to stop the Virus from sneaking through our porous borders should have been put in place. We only started moving 2 months later.

As H.E. President Koroma said it on more than one occasion "EBOLA is new to us, we don't know much about this deadly virus". I personally shivered when I heard the leader of our Nation narrating our ordeals with so much strains and emotions which is difficult to hide even in the highest office of this Land.

We went through 13 years of civil unrest, what did we learn from those years but more divisive communities and more negative attitudes.

The west went through much bigger conflicts and devastations such as the black plague etc. These experiences were hard lessons which made them spring to democratic systems, flourished development and whatever we admire them for today.

We must therefore rejuvenate ethical, social and cultural values to guide our sustenance as a people if we are concerned for the future.

Eternal vigilance should be the watchword as the country needs to be on the alert and ready to act in the case of any other outbreak while health workers’ training must be geared towards their understanding of new challenges and how to adhere strictly to protocols and respond well. They must also imbibe the culture of regular hand-washing and the use of gloves in the course of their duty.

The outcome, and subsequent identification of naturally immune individuals, could help shape public health efforts to contain the disease, as well as allowing for accurate estimates for the likely spread of Ebola and other devastating diseases..

While I must emphasise the need for creating greater awareness, if the war against Ebola is to be won completely, there are several areas of our towns, cities and villages where the environment is just not suitable. In such places, something needs to be done –whether private or government.

Apart from putting in place a permanent monitoring and sanitation team, the government should ensure that it does not disband all the structures on the ground now courtesy of international efforts, but rather hone their effectiveness and efficiency as well as do more to consolidate the efforts.

Epidemiological data and operational information about outbreaks is dynamic and changes rapidly. The fight against Ebola and future outbreaks must always be backed by essential political will and support at the highest level of governance as soon as hints of such worrisome reports emerge.

Neither should we forget the need for social and political education as we cannot continue in this blind race of destroying values because of greed, tribalism, selfishness and mistrust which has polarised our governance and society.

As we march on after this trying time the government needs to do all within its powers to reassure the citizens, helping them to get back their lives, strengthening the nation’s capabilities to prevent the disease and giving support to businesses affected by the outbreak.

Post EBOLA era must be one of drastic changes in vital elements which affect our daily life and protect us from the Invisible Enemies. Prioritise our actions as follows:

1-  Invest  generously in the modernisation of our Health Care System

2-  Ensure hygiene is strictly observed in our Hospitals, households, College Campuses, Schools, Markets, streets, and every corner of our cities.

3- Educate our School going Children on the benefits of Hygiene while highlighting the damage that can affect their livelihood if certain precautions are not observed.

4- Impose a fine on any Household, Shop, Industry, pedestrians, commercial and private vehicles, found contravening the minimum requirements of keeping their premises clean and free from bacteria.

Given all these, it is obvious that what Ebola has taught us is that if we do not change the focus of our development and transformation, we might discover too late that, what we were looking at in the horizon, is a perfect storm brewing and ready to burst open in full force.

If it does, the catastrophe is likely to consume us even more than the civil war.

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

Read more...

Business News

Why Parastatals should be Socially Responsible: the Case of NRA

In Sierra Leone, the notion of corporate social responsibility has always been associated with the private sector. No wonder some people see the active involvement of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in corporate social activities as strange, and many have opined that a tax collecting body should not be engaged in corporate social responsibility activities.

However, the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on corporate image is immense, even for tax collecting bodies. The perception that tax collectors are monsters vigorously bent on collecting people's earnings with no care for the environment or the vulnerable in the community they operate is evolving. Indeed, many revenue authorities in Africa are today socially responsible.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) in an article in its website argues that "the nature of Revenue Collectors' mandate makes them the hill of the nation such that whatever they do is mirrored and echoed by many".

Read more...

Media News

Press Freedom under Siege in West Africa: 30 Media Workers Arrested in 38 Days

The 30 victims, made up of 15 journalists and 15 media technicians, were arrested, detained and/or assaulted in 10 separate incidents in four countries namely Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. Nigeria recorded six incidents, Cote d’Ivoire recorded two incidents while Guinea and Togo recorded an incident each.

In Nigeria, seven journalists were arrested and detained during the period. In Cote d’Ivoire, six journalists were arrested and detained in a single incident while one journalist each was affected in Guinea and Togo, bringing the total number of journalists affected to 15. In respect of the other media workers, nine staff of a newspaper printing firm were arrested in single incident. In Cote d’Ivoire, six technicians working with the state-owned television station were also arrested in a single incident.

Read more...

Commentary

Dr. David Tam-Baryoh: A New Broom in Sierra Leone Politics

Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is a household name in Sierra Leone, mostly because of his“Good Governance” popular radio programme called monologue. In fact the programme has become sopopular that most people prefer to call the presenter “Mr. Monologue”. Recently Mr. Monologue said in two or three of his programmes that he would be going intopolitics. It looked like a joke the first time he said it. But after saying it over threeor four times it is no longer a joke.

So Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is going into politics in 2018. Those who are very closeto him will tell you that this is a fact. The Doctor has made up his mind. Afterdiscussing and editing serious national issues on newspaper pages and on the airwaves for almost twenty five years, hehas decided that he cannot achieve much for the people behind the microphone and the pen. He now wants toengage into something that will make a direct impact on the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

And the Doctor thinks politics is the best way to do this, if we look at politics as“the authoritative allocation of scarce resources within a nation state.” He wants tobe part of the allocation of Sierra Leone’s scarce resources.

Read more...

View Point

Precious Minerals, Public Trust and Government’s Openness

By late 2001, the Anti Corruption Commission arrested then Sierra Leone's  transport and communications minister, together with his wife, “for involvement in illegal diamond mining” in Kenema district.  Large quantum of illicit diamonds had been found in their possession, according to a BBC report at the time.

With some diamonds said to have been smuggled out of the country by the minister, the incident happened at a time when the rebel war was raging and the key perpetrators- the RUF were also seriously involved in illicit mining and smuggling. The minister was later jailed in 2003 for two years for illegal possession of diamonds.

Amongst other factors, Sierra Leone’s civil war was fuelled mainly by diamond, specifically “conflict diamonds”- those diamonds that originated from territories controlled by rebel forces (UN definition).

Read more...

News - Press Release

LAB resolves dispute over property in Kissy

The Legal Aid Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution on Tuesday, 7 March 2017 resolved a long standing dispute in respect of a property on Newcastle Street, in Kissy, Freetown between one Mr. Solomon Samba Mansaray and his seventy-seven year old elder sister Madam Marian Kamara who is in the country on holiday from the United States of America.

The two who had not been on speaking terms were reconciled. Both promised to work together in the interest of peace in the family. In this vein, Madam Marian Kamara agreed to cancel a U$ 400 debt owed by Mr. Mansaray. 

While the tension between the two had been lingering several years,Mr. Mansaray decided to report the matter to the Board in Freetown when he got information that Madam Marian Kamara was planning to sell theproperty.   The owner of the property who is the sister of both parties had died over a decade ago without leaving a will.

Read more...

Society -Local News

Njala demonstration stretches LAB to the limit

The Legal Aid Board office in Freetown was stretched to the limit following the storming of the office by desperate students ofthe Njala University seeking the intervention of the Board to secure the release of their colleagues who had been arrested and held in police cells around the city.

On a normal weekday, you would expect at least forty people crammed in the Freetown office to seek the services of the Board. The situation on Thursday, March 23 was characterized by mild chaos as too many students wanted to visit the office to provide updates on students arrested by the police.

The team of Legal Aid Board staff comprising Bankole Morgan and Anthony Karim Kamara negotiated the release of five of the six students detained at the Central Police Station. One was not released because of an alleged inflammatory statement to bring the city on its knees.

Read more...

Development

U.S. Africa Command Launches a 33-Nation Maritime Exercise: Sierra Leone Maritime “Full Speed Ahead”

During March 23-31, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issponsoring “Obangame Express”, an in-port Command Post exerciseand at-sea maritime exercise designed to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.The exercise includes 33 partner nations, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). 

The exercise is designed to improve cooperation andinformation sharing, and to refine tactics, techniques and procedures among participating nations.

The “Obangame Express”exercise will be based on realistic modern-day scenarios such as piracy, illegal fishing and hijacking.  During the exercise,Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) will be challenged to recognize illicit acts and share trackinginformation with other MOCs throughout the region.

Read more...

Politics

Ansumana Usman Koroma Urges Sierra Leoneans To Support the Registration Process

The winner of the Pride of Australia Award, Ansumana Usman Koroma popularly known as AUK has called on all Sierra Leoneans within and outside Sierra Leone to support and fully participate in both the ongoing voter registration that has started March 20 to end April 19 2017 and the forthcoming nationwide civil registration process slated April 24 to June 11 2017.

AUK who is a Political and Policy Analyst working in Australia said the mass registration of every citizen is a very important process in the development agenda of the country. He therefore appealed to all Sierra Leoneans to put politics aside and understand that the process would help government consolidate citizens’ data and enhance effective service delivery and improve monitoring of government programmes and policies.

He stressed that the national civil registration authority is created to promote a greater sense of nationalism and common identity.

Read more...
Copyright © 2017 expotimesonline. All rights reserved.