UK step up Ebola response in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 November 2014

Ebola ambulance accidentThe recent spike in the number of new Ebola cases in Sierra Leone has demanded a renewed sense of urgency to try a different approach in tackling the virus. But as yet, there are no signs of a change in policy or direction. (Photo: One of several Ebola ambulances that have been involved in road accidents).

The newly formed, military led National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) is proving woefully inept in managing the crisis.

Its lack of knowledge and inexperience of managing a public health crisis of this magnitude, is becoming clearly obvious by the day

What you get from the military leadership of the NERC is nothing short of macho bravado – all brawn and no brainer response to the crisis.

The Koroma government of Sierra Leone has to do more, if it is to contain and eradicate Ebola. And president Koroma himself has to show better national leadership, than simply rebuking his uncle – a northern local chief, ironically, for seemingly failing to provide leadership to people of his chiefdom.

There are less than 400 treatment beds in Sierra Leone. With an average weekly number of new cases now topping 300, it is obvious that most of the sick are either being turned away at treatment centres or painfully dying at home – accelerating the cycle of Ebola transmission in the country.

Today, more than 30 British National Health Service (NHS) staff arrived in Sierra Leone to join the military contingent of medical staff that is already hard at work in the country, helping to treat the ever growing number of Ebola sick people.

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Nigeria’s dangerous 2015 elections: Limiting the violence

International Crisis Group

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 November 2014

People demonstrate in Nigeria's northernIn its latest report, Nigeria’s Dangerous 2015 Elections: Limiting the Violence, the International Crisis Group examines the volatile environment in which electoral preparations are taking place and outlines measures that need to be taken urgently to curb the looming violence. (Photo: Human Rights Watch).

According to the report, Nigeria’s politics is sliding dangerously towards violence before, during and after the February 2015 elections. With only three months to the polls, mitigating bloodshed requires urgent improvements in security and electoral arrangements, as well as in political mindsets.

February 2015 general elections are essentially between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), and will be fiercely contested.

The Boko Haram insurgency, competing claims to the presidency between the majority Muslim north and majority Christian south, inadequate electoral arrangements and apparent bias by security agencies all point toward a very perilous contest whose results may also be disputed.

“Boko Haram’s insurgency makes these elections particularly fraught, but it is only a microcosm of the country’s deepening political, religious and ethnic divides”, says Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria Senior Analyst. “With only three months to the polls, a sense of urgency is more than ever imperative, particularly on the part of the government and the election-management and security agencies”.

According to Crisis Group’s Africa Program Deputy Director –  EJ Hogendoorn:  “As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, Nigeria would pose a very real security threat if it were destabilised by election violence”.

“Salvaging the situation requires concerted efforts by all national actors and international partners,” says EJ Hogendoorn.

This is a summary of the Report.

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Lest we forget – The macabre mockery of democrazy

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 November 2014

freedom-of-the-pressWhether David Tam Baryoh was blackmailed into signing a confession, which then guaranteed his presidential pardon or temporary release, is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.

It is the unnecessary and unprovoked aggression, used as a proxy weapon of warfare by the President and his ever-ready lackeys, that scares the crap out of me.

Contrary to whatever victory the government might assume it has achieved, with the sword of Damocles still hanging over Tam Baryoh (and anyone who dares to challenge the status quo for that matter), we should not allow the issue to be swept under the carpet and made to look as one more magnanimous act of benevolence from President Koroma.

According to the government, the journalist was arrested “for preaching tribalism, hatred and division in the country”. These are weighty issues with grave security implications and potential ethnic political consequences.

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Sierra Leone doctors to start large scale trials of serum treatment for Ebola

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2014

Ebola - Weep Not MotherSierra Leone may soon be at the verge of a major breakthrough in the fight against Ebola, should clinical trials of the use of convalescent serum therapy (CST), prove successful.

The war against Ebola is one that the West African nation of six million must win, and fast.

According to official figures, over 5,000 people have so far contracted the virus. And should a multiplier effect be applied at the current rate of transmission, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people may have been infected as ‘collateral transmission’.

Treatment and holding centres in the country, are struggling to cope with the rising numbers of new cases that are being confirmed Ebola positive. Last week alone, more than 500 people were tested positive with the virus.

Hopes of a massive decline in infection and transmission by encouraging changes in traditional practices and behaviours have been dashed. Aged old habits and customs are difficult to break.

Likewise, hopes of a breakthrough in the development and early production of a clinically effective vaccine are yet to be realised. But doctors in Sierra Leone are hopeful.

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Dr. Michael Kargbo has died

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 Nov 2014

Another Sierra Leonean doctor has died of Ebola, since the death yesterday of doctor Martin Salia.

Dr. Michael Moses Kargbo – an experienced surgeon, became ill last Saturday and was admitted at the Hastings Hospital, where he was pronounced dead by doctors today.

He was aged 70 and suffered from multiple longterm conditions, including hypertension and diabetes, but contracted the Ebola virus which killed him.

Dr. Michael Moses Kargbo had retired from the country’s health service, but was brought back from retirement to join the battle against Ebola.

Sadly, this afternoon, he too succumbed to the mighty will of Ebola.

Once again we ask: Is Sierra Leone fast losing the war against Ebola?

Many in Sierra Leone are deeply troubled by the government’s silence over the death of both Dr. Salia and Dr. Kargbo.

It is customary for the country’s ministry of health to publish a press statement acknowledging the passing of its doctors and expressing sympathy to their families. But astonishingly, it is now well over twenty-four hours since Dr. Salia passed away, and yet the ministry of health nor State House has seen it fit to issue a statement.

It seems president Koroma and his government are no longer capable of doing what is right in the circumstances, let alone expected to do the right thing. How sad and irresponsible.

With over 5,000 people now confirmed as Ebola infected, the people of Sierra Leone are bracing themselves for what is expected to be a miserable Christmas.

Doctors and nurses across the country are tonight worried about the increasingly high risk of contracting the virus. A total of seven doctors and scores of nurses have lost their lives in the last four months.

It is not certain what is causing the continuing high incidence of infection among health workers. Is it the lack of effective protective wear?

Is it lack of proper training as to how to put on their protective wear? Is it forgetfulness on the part of health workers about taking precautions when attending to patients?

Is it simply that the available protective wear are too cumbersome and inappropriate for the local climatic conditions?

Or, are some health workers failing to take necessary precautions outside of work, hence getting infected during domestic and social interactions?

Whatever the answers to these questions, the fact remains that at the current rate of infection among health workers, including doctors, the death toll will continue to rise, if  a thorough investigation is not carried out as to why so many of them are succumbing to the virus.

Something is going seriously wrong, and if the government really cares, it will make it its business to find out and take steps to halt this catastrophic loss of the only hope the people of Sierra Leone have of  surviving the virus – the skills, dedication and expertise of the country’s health workers and doctors.

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Another Sierra Leonean doctor dies of Ebola – aged 44

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 Nov 2014

Handout shows Martin Salia, a Sierra Leonean doctor sick with EbolaDr. Martin Salia – a Sierra Leonean born medical doctor, who contracted the Ebola virus whilst working at the Connaught Hospital over a week ago, and was flown out of the country last Saturday to receive treatment in the US, has sadly died today in a hospital in America.

This afternoon the Biocontainment Unit at the Nebraska Medical Center, where Dr. Salia was being treated, issued this statement:

“We are extremely sorry to announce that the third patient we’ve cared for with the Ebola virus, Dr. Martin Salia, has passed away as a result of the advanced symptoms of the disease.

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