President Koroma was wrong to relax Ebola restrictions amid fear of Ebola resurgence

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2015

President koroma - No Blood on my handsThe latest figures released by the ministry of health in Sierra Leone suggests that daily average recorded number of new cases has dropped from about 60 in late December to about 10 in the last two weeks.

This is a remarkable drop of more than 80% in new cases, recorded on average every day, across the country.

But some medical experts in Freetown are disputing the ministry’s figures published since the end of December, 2014, when president Koroma took on a new determination to achieve zero new cases by March 2015.

It now seems the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and officials at the ministry of health are working on all cylinders – massaging the figures, in order to achieve the president’s ambition – by all means necessary.

And this over-zealousness is being pursued, with the alarming under-reporting of the number of new cases, rates of transmission and deaths from Ebola.

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Presidential rewards for Ebola cover up in Koinadugu – Chief Justice sacked

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 January 2015

president koroma sworn-in for second termWhen the annals of the Koroma presidency are written after the 2017 elections, what will be remembered most, is the president’s lack of leadership skills and inability to make good and timely decisions.

Yet, few will question his loyalty to his foot soldiers and political allies that have stayed true to his cause.

Last Friday, with one mighty swoop of his pen, he was able at long last to find the courage to sack the country’s Chief Justice – Umu Tejan Jalloh, after months of public outcry and calls by the Anti-Corruption Commission for the Chief Justice to step down from office, having gone well past the retirement age.

Will she now be asked to refund every single penny she has collected from poor tax payers by way of salaries and other benefits, to which she clearly was not entitled? Will she be prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Commission for any possible allegation of fraud?

But the most shocking decision by the president last Friday, however, was his appointment of two of his foot soldiers, who are suspected to have been responsible for covering the truth about the scale of the Ebola crisis in the northern district of Koinadugu – Momoh Konteh and Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh.

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Can value for money procurement stimulate Sierra Leone’s post Ebola recovery?

Sheriff Mahmud Ismail

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 January 2015

Auditor-General-Mrs.-Lara-Taylor-PearceSuccessive reports of the Auditor- General (AG) – (photo), have consistently identified non-compliance of procurement procedures as a serious challenge in the country’s public financial management system.

In the executive summary of the 2011 report, the AG stated that; “We encountered many instances of breaches in procurement procedures. Several significant lapses were observed … resulting in incomplete transactions and hence unsatisfactory service delivery.”

The 2012 report was even more critical. It says that “failure to comply with procurement laws and regulations remains endemic and is a bigger problem to tackle successfully”.

The report went on to relate those procurement failures to loss of revenue: “Our audit work on the Public Accounts and in MDAs suggests procurement deviations from laws and regulations amounting to Le24, 225,042,005.”

With those gloomy findings, one would expect that the 2013 report should have shown some improvement; rather, it makes for grim reading.

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Ebola may be retreating – but food shortage and hunger beckons

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 January 2015

school children in sierra leoneThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that Ebola may be retreating, but hundreds of thousands of people are now facing hunger in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

According to a report published a month ago by WFP and FAO, the number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015.

Access to food must drastically be improved, and measures put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production in order to avert another disaster in those three countries, the report warns.

Border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food – threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates.

The loss of productivity and household income due to Ebola-related deaths and illness, as well as people staying away from work for fear of contagion, is compounding an economic slowdown in the three countries.

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Ebola – economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remain crippled

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 January 2015

Ebola and the futureA new World Bank report says that the Ebola epidemic will continue to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing.

The report estimates that these three countries will lose at least US$1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result of the epidemic.

But the report, released on the eve of the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos – also contains more positive news: the probability of spread and the associated economic costs beyond the three most-affected countries are now much lower than previously feared

The intensive global and national responses to the epidemic over the past several months, have had a huge impact in stemming the virus.

An earlier World Bank Group economic analysis (from October 8, 2014) found that the West Africa region alone could experience a downside scenario of US$25 billion in economic losses in 2015.

But the current report estimates the range for Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole to be from a low of US$500 million to a high of US$6.2 billion.

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Frontline Ebola health workers deserve better

Sheriff Mahmud Ismail

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 January 2015

Nurses in sierra leone died of EbolaWhen the Ebola virus struck Sierra Leone eight months ago in May 2014, it did so with extraordinary barbarity. Like an overpowering insurgent, it sought to demoralize the strongest among those who battled its ferocious onslaught.

It practically decapitated the resistance and unleashed a reign of terror on the foot soldiers. Sierra Leone’s foremost specialist in hemorrhagic diseases, Dr. Umar Khan succumbed three months into the Ebola outbreak. Soon after, several senior doctors – ten in all – perished.

About 200 health workers – nurses, midwives, lab technicians, ambulance drivers, and other support staff- have also fallen in the combat against this dreadful disease.

As the virus pounded on, its savagery forced some health workers to tactically retreat. Those who held their positions continue to do so with the gallantry of true patriots.

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