Why Sierra Leone Plummeted 10 years after Peace

Short Background

In the last 12 months, the world has come hear more about Sierra Leone this time not about war but about Ebola. Between 1991-2002 Sierra Leone was in the for its brutal civil war. Later, it was it’s success in coming to peace. Elections were held and some resemblance of stability was recorded.

Mr Tejan Kabbah, the 3rd President of Sierra Leone led that country between 1996-2007. His presidency was dogged by the civil war until 2002 when the was was officially declared over. Expectations for that government were high, at the same time, trust was low. The peace and reconciliation commission was working. The human rights commission and other state institutions were being quickly built. Perhaps difficult to resolve was the high unemployment rate. Sierra Leone coming out of war had lost the best of its working force to bullets and a lot more ending up as refugees outside their country. More important to note is that thousands if not millions had their education interrupted and many of the people on the streets of Sierra Leone do not have the right training or capacity to help effectively run the state.
The economy could not meet the wage expectations of returning professionals. While many young people have lost 5-10 years of their lives as soldiers or people on the run. It’s this group – the youth that has proven difficult to win over. They were promised jobs, income, healthcare etc but that did not have the education to be hired. Instead, many of these young men and women who were powerful militias and rebel leaders and terrorised their fellow county men and women suddenly became powerless and vulnerable.
The Kabbah administration did very little in either harnessing or redirecting the energies of the young people. To appease them, they were offered short term projects such “money for work scheme” where young people were asked to de-silt gutters, fill potholes, construct community bridges or roads, etc. It is not that these kinds of jobs are not worth it, it is that, they were not planned in a way that added value to the lives of these young people. Second, they were paid just enough so they could come back the next day. Party henchmen got these contracts and sublet to the youth. There was little effort to link the little the government was doing to its development plan. Much of the projects and plans were only short-term quick fixes. Finally, the money being used for these projects were donor grants, some in fact were loans. Essentially, the Kabbah led SLPP was mortgaging the future of these young people for nothing.

The first 5-years (2002-2007) post war went by quickly and Mr Kabbah’s Vice Solomon Berewa lost the election to Mr Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC Party.

Checking Out Freetown
My first visit to Freetown was June 2011, I had one mission – perform a reconnaissance of Sierra Leone in other to make the decision of whether it was safe to expand our internship programme to that county.
It turned out, 2011 was not the right time. I returned two times in 2012  and I could see massive changes. The airport got upgraded, roads where being built (with many of the workers being Chinese or Senegalese). There were signs of good times ahead, but also thick in the air was the expectation of “betterment”. This feeling of betterment led to the believe that this was just the start, that the country had the capacity to do more and the young people could not be patient enough. You could feel the grumbling through 2012 as that was an election year. It was then I had the opportunity to meet the then Minster for Youth, Employment and Sports, Paul Kamara. He asked what my opinion of the country was and my response to him was:

“Sir, I think your government has done well and Sierra Leone currently has the feel of a jumbo jet all fuelled and on the runway, ready for take off, yet the jet was taking too much time and running out of runway…if you win this election and don’t get out of the election mode quickly, your county might crush”.

For 1 year post 2012 election the country was silent – economically and financially – money was spent on election campaign and very little was available to perform the real work of governance. The only spending happening was the multi billion not-for-profit sector. Wages are not being paid and suddenly, a party that just won an election was back in election mode as Mr Ernest Koroma tries to set himself up for a third term! While things were still being “figured out” – something tragic happened – it was not the economic and political “crush” I mentioned in my conversation with Mr. Kamara.

Ebola!
What happened was EBOLA! . That “crush” I spoke I predicted (or attempted to predict) was what I saw as an uprising due to increased economic hardship but Ebola exposed the government. Indeed Ebola was more than a health crises, it affected every fabric of society – transport, agriculture, banking, health, etc . No one was ready, no one knew what to do. Even as the first few cases happened in the interior, the APC Party was still juggling the term elongation plan.
This is how the APC Party plunged Sierra Leone into the current state. Ebola became endemic because those that were the guardians of the people were busy seeking leverage for themselves.

Non-Governmental organisations and other state institutions did not know what to d because the lead institution – the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) could not provide clear, direct leadership on the crisis from the very beginning.

After U Na U

APC Party Third Term Campaign Banner. Picture: Tsike-Sossah Simon at Congo Cross Roundabout, Freetown

 

AFTER U NA U: Politics of Term Elongation
April 2014, I was in Freetown and the new slogan in town was ‘After U, Na U’ – to wit, “Mr. Koroma will be replacing himself in the next election”. In the meantime the ebola associated deaths have started. Radio, television and newspapers were focused on discussing the “third term agenda”. Civil society was silent, the opposition party developed their counter slogan: ‘After Gbabgo na U’ – reminding Mr Koroma that he could end up as Mr Gbabgo had – in the ICC Prison at The Hague.

But all was not well in the Party. The APC Party was itself divided, there was the group routing for Mr. Koroma, a second group supports the bid of the current Vice-president to take over from President Koroma. A final group purported to be led by former chief of staff Dr. Richard Kontey opposed both the President and his Vice-president’s bids.

Throughout the Ebola crises, we have seen little collaboration between the office of the President and his Vice-president.

The effect has been the delay in performing situational analysis, needs assessment and to find the right local and international partners to form the right team to tackle the crisis. For this lack, we saw the needless death of more than 3,000 people – children, women and other vulnerable people. Report of the Sierra Leone’s Audit Service shows that a third of the Ebola funds – $3.3million during the period May-October 2014 could not be accounted for. The audit showed huge mismanagement of funds by individuals, state apparatuses and leadership of Non-Governmental Organisations. The Audit Service is yet to report on November till end of year 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. The report also focused only on funds coming to the GoSL only. I think a wider audit of International Organisations will show even more massive mismanagement of funds.

In neighbouring Liberia the case is not different BUT one thing was clear – they fought to come to zero. One would expect that Liberia achieving zero ebola cases motivate Sierra Leone to work differently.

But No! Just this month of March, the political crisis has again over shadowed the Ebola crises in that country. During the absence of President Koroma to attend a donor conference in Brussels, the APC Party decided to expel the Vice-president from the Party. Currently there are rumours of a parliamentary process to impeach him.

The key issues facing Sierra are many and varied; youth development and youth unemployment, healthcare, fixing the Ebola ravaged economy and the post Ebola problems with education and social cohesion. But the government, it’s leadership and the party think otherwise.

Why would they (Sierra Leone) behave so childishly? Because there is the availability of free or cheap donor money, grants and loans? The economic community of west African states (ECOWAS) and other agencies have called on the global north for debt forgiveness for the Ebola ravaged countries. I do not think this is the right time to give access to more loans or grants to the government of Sierra Leone. Any money at this time will only increase the fluidity of the political crisis.

It appears that access to funding outside of taxes for Sierra Leone and other West African countries continuously and consistently have made these governments to fail their people. Their role in government has not been about the people or how to build on the good of their countries but rather to plunder.

Small is Better

Perhaps it is time for donors to rethink their grants mechanisms and support small, credible grassroots organisations. We have seen during the Ebola crisis how small organisations have worked better than the big international foundations; we have recorded zero grassroots organisations negatively indicted in audit reports.

It is time to back to the 90’s funding mechanisms and support directly the efforts of community based, people centred organisations.

Governments in the West African region have proven, time without number that they can not be trusted with development grants for its people.

On that score, Sierra Leone and Mr. Koroma have failed massively.

S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds an Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam and an MA from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He is the author of “Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone“. Simon works for ACIPP West Africa as its Executive Director and also leads is Consulting work in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Currently, Simon is leading the efforts of grassroots organisations in Sierra Leone and Liberia to help fundraise for them to implement Ebola related projects.
This blog is the private work of Simon Tsike-Sossah and do not represent the views of the organisations he works for.

In Ebola’s Wake: The Case for Social Workers Without Borders

Sierra Leone

Note: This is a  Presentation to The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, New York University, NY Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

The Northern Hemisphere has a standing army – NATO! The UN has a standing army (almost); AU is debating and has a similar structure as the UN. In West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) created short-term standing army that helped end the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars – Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

We have Engineers without Borders founded in the 1980 around engineers – building roads, bridges, etc. There are over 30 organisations built around issues or professions suggesting a “without borders” title ranging from Doctors, Bikers, Advocates (Lawyers), and Sociologists to Evangelists without Borders!

Perhaps it is time to have a standing army of social workers – Social Workers without Borders!

About ACIPP West Africa

ACIPP West Africa seeks “to foster exchange and community engagement between youth world-wide, in order to enhance capacity and capability for dynamic organizations and companies throughout West Africa”. We do this by creating and maintaining internships in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana. We currently have over 12 organisations we work with across the three countries.

Ebola has severely affected our work in many ways. For example our coordinator in Ghana had to relocate back to the US because of Ebola and the pressure from family. We have had to pause all our programmes – even those in Ghana where we have not recorded a single case of Ebola due to the fear and stigma this disease carries.

This has financial implications – paying wages without returns because staff cannot work and bring money into the organisation; The trainings we offer no longer have participants because of either ban on group’s gathering or fear of catching the virus. Either way, as an organisation and like many others; both for-profit and not-for-profit, we were all losing money

Some businesses have scaled back, letting staff go while others have kept their staff but reduced wages to between 25-50%. At ACIPP we have had to make such decisions too and it is not a pleasant one to make. These are conversations you will not hear – the lost jobs, the closed businesses, the struggling company, etc. They are hidden in the many research surveys, World Bank and IMF archives, aid initiative, etc.

We at ACIPP West Africa got to the point where we figured that the Ebola crises was more than a health system failure After reaching this realisation, we decided to do something different – we decided to work with people on the ground without necessarily interfering in the discourse and the work they were doing. We only wanted to assist in their work. That led to the development of a consortium of organizations called DERSWA.

About DERSWA

Students in Murray Town in Freetown get radios

Students in Murray Town in Freetown get radios

DERSWA is the acronym for: Disaster and Emergency Relief Services West Africa. DERWA was founded out of a need to bridge funding gaps between local grassroots organisations and the international donor community.

Led by ACIPP West Africa, the members of DERSWA seek to work together to bring emphasis to local grassroots organisations in the fight against Ebola; contribute to policy discussions on how grassroots organisations are capacitated to engage during crises, among others.

The funding members – called TEAMS FOR RESILIENCE or implementing partners, have at least 10 years of experience in community mobilisation and project implementation.

These are the members of DERSWA are following grassroots organisations 4 of which are in SL and Liberia:

Sierra Leone:

  1. CARL: or http://www.carl-sl.org/ (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Centre-for-Accountability-and-Rule-of-Law-CARL/165049643559322)

Liberia:

  1. AGENDA: http://thefreeagenda.org/
  2. NAYMOT: http://naymote.com/
  3. SHALOM: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ShalomLiberia/782562288444132

Netherlands:

  1. ACIPP West Africa: http://www.acippwestafrica.org
  2. Mineke Foundation: http://www.minekefoundation.org/

United States:

  1. Africa Educates http://www.peaceactionwi.org/africaeducates/

The main objective is to motivate them to lead their communities to solve the current Ebola Epidemic and build the capacity to prevent future health crises.

The main objective is to motivate them to lead their communities to solve the current Ebola Epidemic and build the capacity to prevent future health crises.


SUSTAINABILITY

Dr. Paul Farmer[1], who chairs Harvard University’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, argues that to solve the Ebola crisis “four S’s” are key: “Stuff, Staff, Space, and Systems.” He goes on to say: “All over the world there are warehouses of guidelines and policies and protocols, but you’ve got to have stuff, staff, space and systems in the places where you need them most. You can’t work magic out of nothing[2]”. However having all the staff, stuff, space and systems have NOT wiped out Ebola. We forget that if things are not sustainable, they do not work in the long run.

Others have suggested that poverty is the leading cause of the virus and its spread. Professor Bobby Banerjee of the Cass Business School in London says: “The fact that poverty is a major cause of this virus means industry and governments are equally accountable. It is an easily solvable problem, yet the state and the market have both failed.”[3] – I think otherwise, I think what has led to this crises is governments in West Africa’ and her research agencies ability to adequately translate knowledge and research into social action and policymaking.

The Kenema Government Hospital for instance, has been researching Lassa Fever since the mid-70’s; Lassa Fever has similar characteristics to Ebola Virus Disease yet that institution could not be relied on during Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak to adequately address the crisis. Indeed, the Lassa facility has since its inception been funded by the Center for Disease Control through the University of Tulane. There has not been a strategy to get Sierra Leone to be responsible for this facility. Indeed the government of Sierra Leone has no budget line for the $15million per year that the facility needs. Others paid for wages, materials and other resources while 150 kilometres away lay the diamond mines that produced billions of dollars per year for Sierra Leone. Surely, this is not a case of poverty. It is a case of a country crippled by its reliance on donors and development partners to the extent that it has no sense of how to support itself.

We have researched one virus and its variants for 40 years and could not do much about it or another similar virus when it broke out; blaming poverty. That is ridiculous!

The Lassa fever and Ebola virus are diseases that affect poor people not because they are poor but because their governments and businesses have made them poor. The mines have refused to adequately invest in their people while the government has shielded these business from accountability to those people while it fleeces off Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea’s taxes as was presented in the 2014 Tax Justice Network[4] report.

By deliberately creating a system of inequality, the government, mining firms and other high earing organisations created a weak system, but we have seen that everyone loses in such instances when trouble strikes. Mines and other business have had to relocate, downsize and shell out huge sums of money to help contain the virus. Those moneys could have gone to long-term project of health, education and general development programming.

Speaking directly to Ebola and its containment strategy, providing stuff, staff, space and systems will only help contain the virus but not its next outbreak. In Liberia, some Ebola Treatment Unites (ETU) and Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) are shutting down. The thousands of soldiers sent to Liberia and Sierra Leone are on their way back home. Doctors and Nurses are returning home, logistics managers are waiting to leave. What is sustainable? What is the long-term plan?

Dr. Farmer’s call, while laudable, are the calls that have made the crisis worse; it led to various impositions and feelings of imposition. In making those calls, we missed out on using local knowledge, grassroots organisations and existing structures to address the problems resulting from Ebola’s outbreak.

With Ebola we realise that indeed, our world is a village. Like a village, one persons’ problem is everyone’s problem. We did err to try and shut out the epidemic countries and people coming in from those countries. Globalisation has shown that we are better off fostering sustainability than creating problems. Ebola has exposed our connectedness more than ever as a world[5].

The common thread is sustainability; we failed to make those connections. Ebola created an opportunity to WALK with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, in solidarity, supporting their efforts and just being there and not hijacking their process of growth as has been the case for over the last 50-years.

The Conflict Connection

 Sierra Leone and Liberia both have a conflict background while Guinea has had a very chequered past of political instabilities. All three countries have poorly developed their resources to efficiently deal the health and other emergencies such as Ebola.

Sierra Leone and Liberia as still dealing with rebuilding their economy and infrastructure – roads are being rebuilt, hospitals, dams and hydro-power plants are all being built at the same time. Many people have died or fled, among them doctors, nurses, teachers and other critical human resources were short. We have seen how that played a role in the difficulty to manage Ebola.

The development of the health and other sectors of these countries and much of West Africa are undermined by poor sustainability and succession plans. The core question has remained: “Why did Ebola become such a stronghold in West African nations recently emerging from major conflict[6]? The answer: lack of sustainability. Where there is general governmental and health system instability (low staffing, low funding, minimal facilities, lack of infection control training), turning policy into action: epidemics such as this are able to take hold. It is more than just biology that leads to an epidemic. It is poor and unsustainable health systems that crumble under the pressure of the epidemic. If this side of the issue in these nations are not addressed, it is only a matter of time before another epidemic can take hold.

This can also be applied to the area of social workers, as the authors in one journal indicates, the importance of community health systems linking with national health authorities as particularly vital–these sorts of linkages are often made through social workers.

For instance, many of the treated and discharged cases were not counselled about Post Ebola Syndrome (PES) such as blurred vision, bodily aches and perhaps more important that treated and discharged males should not have sexual contact for at least a month. A system that is connected and functional would make this connection[7].

SOCIAL WORKERS

The lack of social worker and social services are one of West Africa’s problems. For example Sierra Leone’s first national mental health survey in 2002 showed a 4% rate for depression and substance abuse while 1 in 6 Sierra Leoneans would have some form of mild depression, according to the WHO[8].

The few social workers that have been trained in the region have been taken over by the big NGOs and their role have changed from what they were trained to do.

[9]Social Workers are those who contribute to the care, support, promotion of rights, and empowerment of vulnerable populations.

Social Workers are needed to play some key roles in the Ebola response, especially as we near zero. The roles they can play will include:

  • Provide direct care and services to children and families, such as social workers, para-social workers, community caregivers, child and youth care workers, and child protection committee members
  • Mobilize communities, organizations, or groups and facilitate connections between government systems of care and community-based systems of care, such as community development officers, child protection officers, and district social welfare workers
  • Engage at a more macro level, setting policies, standards, and guidelines and carrying out research and evaluation. This includes positions such as directors of children’s affairs, ministers of social welfare, professional association leaders, and university staff.

But Social Workers are working in an environment filled with stigma, danger and fear. With 3,000[10] registered orphans in Liberia, the need for Social Workers cannot be overemphasised. “According to UNICEF, when parents die of Ebola, their children are sometimes found roaming the streets without parental care, proper shelter, health care, or nutrition. This can be a result of stigma and rejection, as the children are seen in their communities as sources of infection.  Typical systems of care are interrupted and those who would typically take children in refuse to care for them due to fear of contamination”[11]. Social workers are vital in protecting and providing systems of care for these youth who have lost everything to the virus.

It is important to also acknowledge the often time taken for granted issue that African people are PEOPLE and they feel the effects of this epidemic in the disastrous ways any human would. “Panic, shock, loss, grief, shame, suspicion, and anger” are some of the “normal” feelings any human being should feel. We need now, more and more of Social Workers – by needing more, I mean providing the training capacity, resources, research and working with the relevant institutions to develop a system of care that is local to the content and is sustainable.

In Sierra Leone, it is reported that there are over 7,000[12] orphans have been registered so far with many living in hard to reach areas. So not only are qualified people needed, we also need access that can best be provided not necessarily by expensive all-terrain SUV but local grassroots organisations.

IMPACT ON EDUCATION

All the three Ebola countries are pioneering or pioneered radio and television teaching and class presentation. However there remains the problem of access – lack of televisions, radios and electricity.

DERSWA tried bridging that gap by securing a pledge of 500 pieces of radios[13], of which 120 have been delivered and another 200 are due during the month of February. In total, we expect to reach about 2,000 individuals – children and adults.

But measuring impact through exam testing remains a problem. DERSWA is working to secure 500 pieces of tablets with preloaded content that allows the children to catch up with lost lessons and also prepare them for the next West African Examinations for Junior and Senior High schools.

What is important to acknowledge is that a lost year of education for the children and youth in these countries is akin to the 10 years lost during the civil wars; the impact CAN/IS just as disruptive if not more than the war.

The more these kids and youth stay away from School, the less likely they are or will be willing to return. And the more their life chances and opportunities are limited.

Sierra Leone spends only 14% of its annual budget on education of which 50% is spent on Primary Education. With Liberia ranked 159 out of 184 with 60.28 points while Sierra Leone is ranked 145 with 71.26 points both for the year 2011[14],[15] for graduation and completion rates, we only have huge problems ahead.

Conclusion

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are broken countries that need fixing; that need curing; they are convalescents that require our support. This is the time to raise that army of cares, supporters and fixers!

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have suffered; I have shown how ACIPP West Africa as one small entity has suffered and is suffering. Incomes are in jeopardy; lives are threatened. This does not create sustainability for us; neither would it for the other hundreds if not thousands of organisations.

Loss of employment or income, death, extreme illness, near death experiences; are issues that are dealt with differently by different people. Studies have shown that while we humans are resilient and will survive many things, we sometimes need help overcoming those deep mind-affecting experiences. We cannot escape the need of psychosocial support for the victims and survivors of Ebola. The best people to provide that help are the Social Workers.

We have seen that, systems gap – translating knowledge to real action was a deficit in the management and containment of the Ebola virus. We need more research and evaluation; we need help with translating policy to action and also to create those policy knowledge in the first place.

Social Workers without Borders will help close the circle of health as three components of “biology, Psychology and Social Context[16]”, where the biology is donated by gender, medication effects, disability, genetic disability, stress reactivity, etc. The Psychological context is – learning/memory, attitudes and belief, past trauma, coping skills, etc. and finally the social context that is defined by family background, social support, social and economic status, education and culture/traditions. Without the social worker, the cycle is not complete!

Ebola makes it even more important to think about the role of a body of social workers in the present situation and in the future.

Yes, time to think: “Social Workers without Borders”.

Thank you.

…..End…..

[1] Dr. Paul Farmer chairs Harvard University’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine

[2] See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/achenblog/wp/2014/10/06/paul-farmer-on-ebola-this-isnt-a-natural-disaster-this-is-the-terrorism-of-poverty/

[3] See: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/aug/15/mining-ebola-africa-nigeria-liberia-guinea-riotinto-vale

[4] See: http://ibissierraleone.org/sites/default/files/PDF%20global/Sierra%20Leone%20PDF/ban_tax_salonereport_final_0.pdf

[5]See: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/oct/09/ebola-infectious-disease-sustainability-concern-sxsw-eco-austin

[6] See: http://www.healthsystemsglobal.org/GetInvolved/Blog/TabId/155/PostId/35/ebola-emerges-in-fragile-states-another-wake-up-call-for-action-on-health-systems-in-conflict-affected-states.aspx

[7] See WHO blog (October, 2014): http://www.who.int/features/2014/post-ebola-syndrome/en/

[8] See WHO Country reports: http://www.afro.who.int/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=5874

[9] See http://www.capacityplus.org/social-service-workers-address-ebolas-widespread-social-impacts

[10] As presented by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: http://www.emansion.gov.lr/doc/EJS_Annual_Message_2015.pdf

[11] The Guardian Publication: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/08/ebola-orphans-sierra-leone-isolation-families

[12] As reported by Street Child Sierra Leone in: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/dec/16/sierra-leone-ebola-orphans

[13] Provided by Ears to Our World: http://www.earstoourworld.org/

[14] Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics.

[15] Definition: Primary completion rate is the percentage of students completing the last year of primary school. It is calculated by taking the total number of students in the last grade of primary school, minus the number of repeaters in that grade, divided by the total number of children of official graduation age.

[16] See graphical representation at: https://tsikesossah.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/16b8b-biopsychosocial20model.jpg

Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone: World Bank reports point to declines in employment, food insecurity, and long-term welfare concerns

The least talked about issues post ebola and during the crisis have remained employment. Both Liberia and Sierra Leone have more than 50% unemployment rates. With ebola, it is feared this number may have climbed to 70% or more.

PROTOCOL FOR SAFE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT IN LIBERIA

The Ebola Virus

Below is the verbatim protocol arrangement for schools in Liberia as the country plans to reopen schools in in February.

The Ministry of Education has therefore released these protocol to provide guidance to teachers and school managers.

1.     WHAT ARE THESE PROTOCOLS?

  • The Protocols for Safe School Environments in the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia define the minimum requirements that have to be in place in every school to ensure that, from a health and a water, sanitation and hygiene point of view, the school is a safe place to be for all students and school personnel.
  • School administrators are responsible for ensuring that the Protocols are in place and followed.
  • School administrators are recommended to form a School Ebola Safety Committee, including adult volunteers, children and youth, to assist with the safe implementation of the Protocols. Members of this Committee will be trained in infection prevention and control.
  • Active Parent Teacher Associations will also play an important role in the implementation of the Protocols, supported by General Community Health Volunteers.
  • School administrators are recommended to call a meeting of the Parent Teacher Association to share the contents of these Protocols with the community before the reopening of the school.

2.     WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN PLACE BEFORE THE SCHOOL REOPENS?

2.1  Identifying possible Ebola exposure before the school reopens

School administrators have to identify any possible exposure to Ebola by students and school personnel during 21 days before the planned school reopening. Therefore, during registration, the following information will be collected for every student and school personnel:

  • Potential exposure to Ebola during the 21 days before school reopening
  • Contact details of parents/guardians/spouses to be contacted in case a student or school personnel becomes ill at school

A person is considered to have “contact” if, in the last 21 days, they were exposed to a suspected or confirmed Ebola patient through:

  • Direct physical contact
  • Contact with their blood, urine, vomit, feces, sweat, saliva
  • Sleeping in the same household
  • Touching his/her clothes or linens
  • Attending a funeral

A person who is identified as having had “contact”, based on the above criteria, is not allowed to go to school until the status of the suspected Ebola case has been laboratory confirmed:

  • If the suspected case is confirmed as Ebola, the contact has to stay at home for 21 days from the day of last contact (see Section 4 for further details).
  • If the suspected case is found negative (not Ebola), the contact can return to school. It is important that school administrators raise awareness in the (school) community that these individuals do not pose any risk to others.

2.2  Mechanisms and facilities that need to be in place before the school reopens

  • Hand washing facilities must be in place at the school entry point and at the bathrooms (see Section 5.1 for further details)
  • Entry to school must be controlled by measuring temperatures, checking symptoms and washing hands every morning to prevent anyone showing Ebola symptoms from entering the school premises. The School Ebola Safety Committee is responsible for organising this.
  • A referral system with a nearby health facility must be in place before the school reopens. School administrators have to contact the County Health Team to agree on a referral system for their school. County Health Teams will be informed about this requirement by the Ministry of Health.
  • Each school has to identify a small physical space that will be used solely for the temporary isolation of students and school personnel with Ebola symptoms while waiting for the arrival of family/guardians and referral. This space should be easily accessible and easy to clean. Drinking water should be available, and oral rehydration salts if available.
  • The School Ebola Safety Committee should have clear lines of communication with the County Health Team to ensure they are informed of any students or staff currently being traced as potential contacts. Teachers who were doing contact tracing while schools were closed are not allowed to continue doing so once they have resumed their teaching duties.

3.     WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE ONCE THE SCHOOL REOPENS?

3.1  Monitoring daily access to school

Every school day, at a clearly defined entry point, all students, school personnel, and any other person entering the school premises have to:

  • Get their temperature checked, and
  • Wash their hands in chlorinated water(05% chlorine solution)

A trained Fever Monitoring Team of at least 2 people will measure temperatures of all incoming individuals .While taking the fever, they will ask everybody:

  • If they have had contact with a suspected Ebola case (see Section 2.1), and
  • If they feel sick (see symptoms listed below).

If an individual answers “yes” to either one of these questions, they will not be permitted to enter the school premises. In that case, the Fever Monitoring Team will follow the steps outlined in Section 3.2.

Once in the classroom, before starting the first class of the day, the teacher will repeat the questions about potential contact and symptoms. School administrators and members of the Fever Monitoring Team measure each other’s temperatures before they start working.

Access to school is prohibited to any student, school personnel, or any other person who:

  • Has a fever of 38° Celsius (or 100.4° Fahrenheit)or higher
  • Has two or more symptoms of Ebola:
  • Headache
  • Red eyes
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Weakness
  • Had contact with an Ebola patient or a person who died of Ebola during the past 21 days
  • Does not respect the preventive measures put in place for everyone’s protection

To avoid delays, school administrators may ask students and school personnel to come to school earlier, or may stagger the start of classes for different age groups.

3.2  When fever or other Ebola symptoms are detected at school

Anybody displaying Ebola symptoms at school has to be managed carefully, following the steps outlined below, depending on when the symptoms are detected. Touching the person with Ebola symptoms must be avoided, and a distance of 1 meter (3 feet) must be kept to mitigate the risk of being infected, however, it is also very important to remember to treat the person with care, affection and respect.

Detection at the school entrance:

  • When a person is detected with a fever of 38°C (100.4°F)or higher and/or any of the other symptoms listed above, the Fever Monitoring Team alerts other members of the team, and accompanies the person to the pre-identified isolation location while keeping a distance of 1 meter (3 feet).
  • School administrators inform his/her family/guardians that he/she must follow the referral system agreed with the County Health Team. Somebody from the School Ebola Safety Committee steps in as long as family/guardians are not available.
  • The health centre keeps school administrators and family/guardians informed of the health condition of the individual.
  • If Ebola is confirmed by a laboratory:
    • School administrators record it in a register (both school personnel and students).
    • The County Health Team must make a list of possible contacts with school administrators.
  • If the case is laboratory confirmed, school administrators immediately inform the district education authorities, who report to the county education authorities.

Detection during school hours:

  • When a teacher detects a possible Ebola case in the classroom, based on the symptoms listed above:
    • The teacher immediately informs school administrators, who inform the parents/guardians that he/she must follow the referral pathway agreed with the County Health Team.
    • Somebody from the School Ebola Safety Committee accompanies the student to the pre-identified isolation location in the school premises, keeping a distance of 1 meter (3 feet).
  • If a teacher or any other school personnel feels unwell:
    • The teacher/other school personnel immediately notifies school administrators, goes to the pre-identified isolation location in the school premises, and follows the referral pathway agreed with the County Health Team.
    • School administrators contact his/her family.
  • The health centre keeps school administrators and family/guardians informed of the health condition of the individual.
  • If Ebola is laboratory confirmed:
    • School administrators record it in a register (both school personnel and students).
    • The County Health Team must make a list of possible contacts with school administrators.

 

  • If the case is laboratory confirmed at the health facility, school administrators immediately inform the district education authorities, who report to the county education authorities.

 

4.     QUARANTINE PERIOD

When, after contact with an Ebola case, a person is quarantined by the County Health Team, this person is not allowed to go to school during 21 days, while the County Health Team monitors his/her health condition:

  • When a contact is quarantined, if he/she does not display symptoms after 21 days, he/she can return to school on day 22, after consulting the County Health Team. School administrators should raise awareness in the (school) community that these individuals do not pose anyrisk toothers.
  • If the person starts to display symptoms during their quarantine period:
    • The family should immediately contact the County Health Team.
    • Family members will not be allowed to enter the school premises until the laboratory test proves negative for Ebola.
    • Tracing of other possible contacts has to be organised by the County Health Team.

During the quarantine period, the school should provide ongoing support:

  • School administrators are encouraged to provide quarantined students with learning materials and activities, in collaboration with parents/guardians.
  • The salary of teachers and other school personnel is not to be ceased or reduced for being absent from school because of quarantine.

If the Ebola case was laboratory confirmed, once the person has been treated for Ebola and released from the hospitals/he can return to school after consultation with the County Health Team. The person is cured of Ebola and can no longer transmit Ebola. It is important that school administrators raise awareness in the (school) community that these individuals are cured of Ebola and pose no risk to others.

 

5.     SAFE HEALTH AND HYGIENE PRACTICES

While the enforcement of hygiene rules and practices at school is the school administrator’s responsibility, also students, families and communities have an important role to play in ensuring compliance.

5.1  Hand washing

It is the school administrators’ responsibility to ensure that hand washing facilities are available. Hand washing with 0.05% chlorine solution, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or soap and running water can be used to help prevent infection of Ebola.

At the absolute minimum, the following 2 locations in the school have to have hand washing facilities:

  • The school entry point, for hand washing with chlorinated water (05% chlorine solution)
  • The bathrooms, for hand washing with water and soap

Any additional hand washing stations on the school premises should use water and soap.

School administrators are requested to put up posters illustrating how to wash hands correctly at all hand washing stations, and to organise practice sessions when schools reopen where trained school personnel teach all students and school personnel how to wash hands correctly:

  • Rub hands together for 40-60 seconds
  • Rinse well
  • Dry hands without using a towel, by shaking hands in the air

Anyone who enters the school must wash their hands:

  • At the school entrance
  • After using the bathroom
  • After physical education activities, a play session or recess
  • Before and after eating
  • After coming in contact with their own or other people’s bodily fluids(tears, nasal secretions, saliva, blood, sweat, urine, vomit, etc.), even if wearing gloves

In addition to the above, education personnel must wash their hands:

  • Before preparing food, eating, or helping student seat
  • After helping a student use the bathroom
  • After helping a student blow his/her nose

If a school does not have a reliable water supply, school administrators are responsible for organising the provision of water from a source in the community. The minimum requirements, including for drinking and hand washing, are:

  • 3 litres of water per student per day for day students
  • 20 litres of water per student per day for boarding school students

5.2  Cleaning schools

It is the school administrators’ responsibility to ensure that the school environment is clean. If there is a spill of bodily fluid (blood, vomit, stool or urine) the area should be cleaned with a 0.5% chlorine solution.

  • People who clean spills of bodily fluids (blood, vomit, stool or urine) have to be trained and provided with protective equipment:
    • At least heavy duty reusable gloves and rubber boots
    • If available, aprons and face shields or masks.
  • Protective equipment (like reusable gloves and rubber boots) that has been soaked in a 0.5% chlorine solution for 30 minutes can be reused.
  • If cleaning spills (blood stains, vomit, stool or urine), follow these steps:
    1. Put on available protective equipment and wear for entire process of cleaning and disinfecting
    2. Clean visible waste:
      1. Pour or spray strong (0.5%) chlorine on a towel
      2. Place the towel on top of the spill and use the towel to remove all visible waste
  • Place the soiled towel in a bucket and cover with 0.5% chlorine solution
  1. Disinfect:
    1. Pour 0.5% chlorine solution on the floor, covering the whole area, be careful not to splash
    2. Let the chlorine sit for 15 minutes while it disinfects
  • Place the soiled towel in a bucket and cover with 0.5% chlorine solution. After one hour, the towels may be washed with soap and reused once they are dry.
  1. Let the cleaned and disinfected surface air dry
  2. Remove protective equipment and wash hands

Who cleans the spills?

  • In principle, trained personnel should be paid to clean the school.
  • Where this is not possible, school administrators, in collaboration with Parent Teacher Associations, should agree on a different arrangement.
  • Students should not be cleaning spills (blood, vomit, stool or urine).

5.3  Eating and drinking practices in school

School administrators, with the help of Parent Teacher Associations and other community members, should mitigate the risk for students and school personnel to be infected by Ebola when they eat or drink on the school premises during school hours, by respecting the following rules:

  • Clean drinking water must be available for all students and school personnel.
  • When food is soldinside the school compound:
    • It should only be sold by vendors authorised by school administrators and the Parent Teacher Association.
    • School administrators are responsible for ensuring that the area where food is sold is clean at all times.
    • Food vendors must follow the same procedures for school entry (temperature check, answering questions about other symptoms and contact, hand washing) when entering school premises
    • The sale of bush meat should be prohibited on school premises.
  • Students should not:
    • Eat food that has touched the ground.
    • Share the same cup or utensils for eating or drinking.
    • Leave the school yard to buy food if food is available at school.
  • If the school provides utensils and supports communal eating:
    • Purchase additional cups, bowls and utensils, or
    • Ask parents/guardians to provide students with their own cup, bowl and utensils to take to school

5.4  “No Touch Policies” at school

One of the biggest challenges in the Ebola outbreak is to minimise physical contact to mitigate the risks of contracting the Ebola virus. If screening for ill students and staff is effective, a “No Touch Policy” is not necessary. However, if a person at the school shows fever or symptoms of Ebola, touching the person must be avoided, and a distance of 1 meter (3 feet) must be kept.

5.5  Additional safety precautions at school

  • Every school should be equipped with a first aid kit and at least one school staff member should be trained in first aid, in collaboration with the County Health Team.
  • Gloves should be worn whenever contact with blood is anticipated, like when dressing a cut or helping a student with a nosebleed.
  • Immediately rinse cuts and scrapes with soap and water, cover all cuts and abrasions with dressings.
  • If contact with blood occurs, do not panic, and wash with soap and water.
  • Every school should develop a catch up campaign for missed school health activities (like for example immunisation catch up campaigns, deworming, and micronutrient supplementation).

6.     PROVIDING PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT AND REDUCING STIGMA

The majority of students respond to routine, friendly communication, regular classroom activities, and activities with elements of psychosocial support. The Ebola outbreak has created different sets of vulnerabilities for stigma though, including child survivors of Ebola, orphans, and children who have lost family members or siblings.

School administrators are responsible to ensure that students who need it receive psychosocial support. When required, in a confidential manner, students should be referred to the teacher-counsellor, and if necessary, to child protection services.

7.     COMMUNICATING WITH FAMILIES

Communicating with families and communities, and involving them in efforts to prevent Ebola is critical, to ensure that they become strong advocates and allies in implementing the Protocols.
At home, families and communities should act as good role models by exercising good hygiene rules, such as:

  • Ensuring children wash hands with water and soap before eating, after using the bathroom, and before leaving for school;
  • Ensuring that children are clean and wear unsoiled clothes to go to school, keeping children’s clothes away from urine, vomit and blood;
  • Reminding children before leaving for school in the morning that they should not share food, drinking cups and bottles with their classmates;
  • Not sending sick children to school;
  • Encouraging children to tell teachers immediately when they themselves, or a classmate, feel sick (headache, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting ), and praising them when they do so.

8.     UNTIL WHEN?

Liberia can be declared “Ebola-free” after passing two consecutive quarantine periods of 21 days without having any Ebola cases in the country. That is, 42 days consecutive must pass after the last Ebola patient in the country is cured. When this occurs, the Liberian government, in coordination with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), can declare the country “Ebola-free”.

Until then, everyone in the school community should continue to be vigilant and work together to implement the Protocols for Safe School Environments in the Ebola Outbreak in Liberiato stop the transmission of Ebola. When Liberia is declared Ebola-free, and the risk of reintroduction from the region is reduced, these protocols will be revised to ensure preparedness to respond to a potential new outbreak, as well as to uphold good hygiene practices in schools and communities.

9.     COMPLIANCE

<The Ministry of Education proposed to add this section, for the Ministry to include.>

EBOLA Corruption Indictments in Sierra Leone

CARL Welcomes Latest Acc Indictments; Urges More Action Against Corruption

Friday 19th December 2014:
The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) commends the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for its efforts at combating corruption in Sierra Leone. In particular, CARL welcomes the recent indictments by the Commission of some public officials for various acts of corruption. On December 12, the Commission announced the indictment of seven persons, including public officials and employees of non-government organisations (NGOs) for various offences ranging from improperly conferring an advantage, obtaining an advantage to conspiracy to commit a corruption offences, and misappropriation of donor property (meant for Ebola quarantined homes in Kenema).

Members of the public may recall that since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, there have been several rumours or complaints of corruption in the fight against Ebola. Eradicating the virus has been a huge challenge, and sadly, it has turned out that another ‘virus’ – which has almost single handedly undermined the country’s economic and development aspirations over the years – has refused to go away even during this difficult period in our country’s history; namely, corruption. While the indictees are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by a competent court of law, the indictments are indicative that the fight against Ebola may have been fraught with acts of corruption.

“It seems we are now fighting two viral diseases—Ebola and corruption. While I am optimistic that we can win the fight against the medical virus sooner than later, based on recent evidence, I can see no end in sight in our fight against corruption, and it will remain a daunting task if tough action is not taken against defaulters”, the Executive Director of CARL, Mr. Ibrahim Tommy, said.

It is important to stress that there are many more cases allegations that the Anti-Corruption Commission needs to investigate. We can recall that on Tuesday 16th December 2014, the Mayor of Kenema City Council, Joseph S. Keifala, claimed on FM 98.1 Radio that the council’s annual budget for 2015 could not be approved because the council had refused to pay a bribe to members of the Parliamentary Sub-Appropriation Committee had requested. Also, the NERC recently discovered that the scheme for the payment of hazard allowance to Ebola Response workers was fraught with irregularities such as ghost workers, and so on.

While we welcome these latest indictments and commend the ACC for their sustained fight against corruption, we urge the ACC to fully probe into all these corruption allegations involving public officials and institutions and put out a report or where the information meets evidentiary basis for corruption charges, go ahead and indict those responsible. In particular, we urge the ACC to speedily investigate corruption allegations against members of the Sub-Appropriation Committee of Parliament, rumours of fraudulent procurement of ambulances and other Ebola-related supplies by government, as well as alleged irregularities in the scheme for the payment of hazard allowance to Ebola Response workers. Where the investigation shows that there is no merit in the allegations, it would also be helpful for the Commission to publish such reports.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the use of funds and property meant for the fight against Ebola is as urgent a need as any vaccine or cure needed for the virus”, Mr. Tommy said, adding, “A critical step towards combating ebola and overcoming our development challenges is accountability for public resources”.

……………………………………………..END………………………………………….
For further information, please feel free to contact: +232 76 365 499

Mocking the Next Generation: International Youth Day

On 17 December 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

The theme of International Youth Day 2014 is “Youth and Mental Health.”.

The UN Secretary Generals’ statement on the day highlights some of the core issues around youth and mental health:

A new publication from the United Nations shows that 20 per cent of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year.  The risks are especially great as they transition from childhood to adulthood.  Stigma and shame often compound the problem, preventing them from seeking the support they need.  For this year’s observance of International Youth Day, the United Nations wants to help lift the veil that keeps young people locked in a chamber of isolation and silence.

The barriers can be overwhelming, particularly in countries where the issue of mental health is ignored and there is a lack of investment in mental health services.  Too often, owing to neglect and irrational fear, persons with mental health conditions are marginalized not only from having a role in the design and implementation of development policies and programmes but even from basic care.  This leaves them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and social exclusion, and has a negative impact on society as a whole.

Young people who are already considered vulnerable, such as homeless youth, those involved in the juvenile justice system, orphaned youth and those having experienced conflict situations, are often more susceptible to stigma and other barriers, leaving them even more adrift when they are most in need of support.  Let us remember that with understanding and assistance, these young people can flourish, making valuable contributions to our collective future.

While these issues are true and ring familiar tones, the biggest problem remains governments in-responsiveness to the issues of youth development in a holistic way. Many a time, youth development in many African countries have been reduced to sports (Football) and (un)employment.

A holistic plan that links youth development to young peoples’ health (across all spheres), finance, education, politics, economy etc are missing. For instance, there is no single full blown playground for children and young people in Ghana, Liberia or Sierra Leone. Ninety percent (90%) of schools in West Africa do not have play fields or equipments. In many schools, children and by extension parents are charged with cost of sporting equipment for their wards in all levels of education.

School field trips are exclusive of regular fees and thus when even they are organised many students miss out because their parents or guardians could not afford the extra costs.

Counselling centres are non-existent in most schools – whether private or public. In the University of Cape Coast where I obtained my first and second degrees, there are no proper counselling programme for students. In my undergraduate year between 200 and 2004, there was a spike in the number of students committing suicide on campus – which led to a series of events and programmes by the counselling unit. Departments and faculties were mandated to designate counsellors but accessibility of counsellors, trust building between subscribers and counsellors and confidentiality of users of the service (the lack of them) made the programme unpopular.

At the national level, it took over 19years to craft a national policy for Ghana. Nigeria is still struggling with its review process; Liberia and Sierra Leone have programmes that are going in no particular direction and same goes for the entire 15-state West African region.

Young people from Lady Kabbah Memorial School at a youth Camp in Freetown

Young people from Lady Kabbah Memorial School at a youth Camp in Freetown, April 2014

Sierra Leone is reputed to have as low as 40% percent youth employment rates – now note that in the region “youth” is 15-35years old. Consider employability age as 18years and given a youth population rate of around 45% we are talking huge numbers that do not have employment or are structurally unemployed or under-employed.

In Liberia, 40% of young people over 15years do not have education. With a workforce of 1.13million only 5% or 195,000 of Liberians are in paid employment [ibid]. This is exacerbated by poor educational infrastructure, poorly trained teachers (and conditions of service of teachers) and outdated curricular.

In many of the regions’ member states, they can claim civil wars and other issues as their cause of doing more for their youth.

However, Ghana over the last 20 years has enjoyed a relatively stable economic and political climate. But when it comes to the issue of youth development and its attendant issues we fair no better than Sierra Leone or Liberia.

Our youth programming has been erratic; projects and programmes are not backed by reliable data and have been developed and implemented as political remedies to social, economic and cultural challenges. Leaving many of our youth interventions to fail. We failed with the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and many similar government led programming.

As the theme for this years’ International Youth Day (IYD) is on mental health, I will like to draw attention to the fact that if we have seen increasing spikes in youth admissions to mental facilities, it is because of a myriad of reasons. The most evident is systemic failure to create support mechanisms that leverage young people in difficult times.

Young people have lost confidence in the older generation to provide a caring and supporting environment for them.

The current 15-29year olds are carrying more responsibilities with limited avenues for support than any on the African continent. This is at a time when Africa is industrialising fast and shedding much of its traditional community support mechanism – commonly called ubuntu. The period when you could walk to a neighbour and have a meal or have your fees paid by an Uncle or Auntie. Our lives have become very individualistic away from our extended family systems.

Of course people’s nerves will crack; depression will increase; suicide rates will go high and without the support system, we are in a caught in a vicious cycle where we can not nurse our own back from their down times!

The solution to solving the West African youth crises and the global youth mental health challenges lies in governments and corporations doing more than talking – by putting their money and efforts towards the very generation that needs to carry their legacies forward.

We can not continue to mock the next generation by pretending to be helping them!

 

The author: Tsike-Sossah is the Director of ACIPP West Africa and the lead consultant of ACIPP Consulting. Views expressed here are solely my personal views and do not reflect the views of my employers.

 

Politics of Ebola: Facing the Pandora

An advance Ebola patient. Photo from: http://www.bellanaija.com/

An advance Ebola patient. Photo from: http://www.bellanaija.com/

When the first stories of ebola was reported in the Kailahun areas in Sierra Leone, it was treated with disdain by the authorities in Freetown.

Indeed the feeling carried out was that of  “this too will pass”. Indeed on national radio and television, some people attempted me say it was not true that the disease was only in Guinea. It got to the point where it took on a political slant – the SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) said that the All People’s Congress (APC) government of Ernest Koroma is taking no action because the Kailahun, Bo, and Kenema are traditionally SLPP strongholds.  The special assistant to the president Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden posted a series of posts on Facebook about the in-action of the Health Minister and in her words (those who should know better) at the time. One of such posts is reproduced here:

Still no comments from me on antics from those who should know better. 😦
On a more important note however, I will like you all to help me pray for our people in Kissi Teng chiefdom, Kailahun, near Guinea border. The news from there, if confirmed to be what is suspected, is very distressing. May the soul of Nurse Messie Konneh who passed away last night in Daru, as she was being rushed to Kenema from Koindu and all the other victims so far (two of whom are being buried right now as I type), rest in perfect peace. Let us also pray for Traditional Birth Attendant Yawa Korseh who is in critical condition and being transferred from Koindu even as I type this message. The medical team have taken samples for tests. Please, let us pray.

Even more informative is the series of comments that followed the post. A read through Dr. Blydens’ posts are a mix of scaremongering, in-action of government and call on God to help” There was no targeted information to educate or show how government was working on the issues. There is a post of how she was paying form her private savings freight charges on donations sent from Canada.

While this wrangling was ongoing, the disease moved to Liberia. With President Sirleaf seldom at the seat of government, that country also played musical-chairs with the threat of ebola with the Commander-in-Chief out of town. (Note that the government of Liberia is highly macro-managed by Mrs. Sirleaf and thus leaves the government exposed when swift decisions are required).

From February 2014, the ebola virus and disease has been circling Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Not counting the month of July so far, the World Health Organisation shares “Confirmed, probable, and suspect cases and deaths from Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, as of 30 June 2014”

 

  New (1) Confirmed Probable Suspect Totals by country
Guinea
Cases 3 293 88 32 413
Deaths 5 193 82 28 303
Liberia
Cases 8 52 21 34 107
Deaths 7 33 17 15 65
Sierra Leone
Cases 11 199 31 9 239
Deaths 2 65 29 5 99
Totals
Cases 22 544 140 75 759
Deaths 14 291 128 48 467
(1) New cases were reported between 25 and 30 June 2014.

 

While the framing and contextualization of the epidemic has led to difficulty in managing its spread. Susan Shepler’s blog highlights some of the social issues of spirituality, gullibility and rumours. The Spokes person for UNICEF explains:

“Rumours and denial are fueling the spread of Ebola and putting even more lives at risk,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Some people still deny that the disease is real. Others believe that it doesn’t have to be treated.”

 

Further, she says of combating the virus:

“If we are to break the chain of Ebola transmission, it is crucial to combat the fear surrounding it and earn the trust of communities. We have to knock on every door, visit every market and spread the word in every church and every mosque. To do so, we urgently need more people, more funds, more partners.”

Providing money to fight the disease is one of  the biggest drawbacks. Sierra Leone’s government has not shown commitment beyond begging donors. There is little government is doing to win corporate support. With more than 3 telecommunication companies, with a total of 2 million subscribers, there is yet a mechanism to use that resource in what is now clearly a national emergency.

Until a few weeks ago, there was no free toll centre (now the ministry can be reached on 117 via all operators). I was in Freetown and Monrovia in April till end of May and not once did I get a cell broadcast about Ebola. No jingles or media messaging on the radio or television.

Perhaps on issue that Dr. Shupler mentioned is the disconnecting feeling by families and loved ones from the sick/infected person. You can not visit them, or even bury them when they die. Families can not give a “befitting burial” – so the question remains –

who wants to bury their father, son, daughter or mother like a dead chicken?

What can be done?

There is no need to give up in despair. I believe that their is opporutninty to get a handle on the spread of the virus:

  1. Utilize the telecommunication industry – mobilize them to give cell broadcasts in English, Krio and other local but popular languages. Send targeted messages at least once daily. The messages should:
    • target the political discuss – it is not an APC strategy to have people in Bo, Kenema and other places to die
    • It is not a curse. You need to keep good hygiene – wash your hands!
    • quotes from influential Sierra Leoneans
  2. Use social media. There are at least 200,000 Sierra Leoneans on Facebook, Twitter and other media. I am excited to hear the Ebola Song on SoundCloud! Get Emmerson and other popular artistes to join the train.
  3. Find safe, and humane way in burying and involving family members.
  4. Develop programmes to take care of families who have lost loved ones to reduce discrimination and other abuse of rights
  5. Political parties should be seen working on this as an issue of National Emergency.
  6. Finally, the public relations work of the Ebola Committee MUST be manned (excuse the sexist word) by a none political individual who understands the role and effect of “framing, context, targeting and messaging” in such a crisis.

Ebola in Sierra Leone and her close neighbours is more than a 3-country crises. If care is not taken this will engulf all of West Africa and therein lies the disaster.

It is time to put down God, and get to work!

 

The author: Tsike-Sossah is the Director of ACIPP West Africa and the lead consultant of ACIPP Consulting. Views expressed here are solely my personal views and do not reflect the views of my employers.

I Feel Alright

The blind Ghanaian Musician simply called “Nipa Nua” did his rendition of James Browns’ “I feel Alright“. Nipa Nua was discovered legendary Faisal Helwani.

Mr. Helwani founded Bibini Records in 1964 managing and producing great music and names that included Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his Egypt ’80 Band.

I am wondering why as a country Ghana is yet to package its unique musical talents for the world market? 

That said, I feel inspired by the quality of Nipa Nua’s music, the ‘upbeatness’ and playfulness that comes with it.

Makes me wanna dance.

Yes I feel Alright! Snap your fingers with me

Freetown: 14 Military personnel face tribunal for alleged mutiny: Fair Trial Rights Compromised?

In August 2013, the Sierra Leone Police arrested 18 personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) on suspicion that they were planning to mutiny against the Government of Sierra Leone. The personnel, including Private Momoh Kargbo, Warrant Officer Federick Johnson, Private Abdulai Coker Suma, Corporal Momoh Conteh, Private Alpha Mansaray,Corporal Alex Jibao Koroma, Private Mustapha Quee, Private Kellie Kamara, Private Musa Fabai, Private Bobor Rogers, and Captain Prince Sessay were detained for nearly
eight months (August 10 2013 to March 2014) without arraigning them before a court to respond to any allegations against them.

Yesterday 20th May, while the Executive Director of CARL-SL – Mr. Tommy Ibrahim, was discussing this report on Radio Democracy in Freetown, the AG of Sierra Leone called into the programme and accused Mr. Tommy of  bias and asked that he be arrested for inciting the populace.

Read the full report here:COURT MARTIAL REPORTFINALLY160514

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