CONFRONTING THE EBOLA VIRUS… Is The Government of Salone Undermining the Fight?

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To further substantiate the said claim(s), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), Rtd. Major Alfred Paolo Conteh disclosed that they have discovered about 6000 ghost workers hugely from the Burial Team. Fired by this ugly development, the Voiceless Sierra Leoneans are now asking: Don’t you think the Government of Sierra Leone is undermining the Ebola fight? Others would ask: Why is the Government not seriously proactive to ensure that the required laws are strictly stick-on to by all and sundry?

Analytically, since the inception of the Ebola fight in May this year with the establishment of the Ebola Operational Center (EOC), the country has lost more than 5 billion Leones with monies landing in the wrong hands. Where did NERC manufacture such mammoth number of ghost workers who were receiving such amount? No wonder the country’s leading auditing firm-KPMG withdrew from auditing the operational activities of the EOC. Is the Government of Sierra Leone only demanding for more funds to fight a virus that is currently winning the race or Is the Sierra Leone Government only blaming the British Government to distract the international community from concentrating on their failed fight? The questions abound especially when Sierra Leone is not making progress to contain the virus.

Sierra Leoneans are dying and the unemployment rate is speedily increasing, therefore the Government should step up harder to ensure that the Ebola War is over. We are not on the winning path, hence the Ebola outbreak is progressing, bodily fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding is being more hazardous. Many areas where the infectious reservoir exists have just these characteristics. In such environments, all that can be done is to immediately cease all needle-sharing or use without adequate sterilization procedures, isolate patients, and observe strict barrier nursing procedures with the use of a medical-rated disposable face mask, gloves, goggles, and a gown at all times, strictly enforced for all medical personnel and visitors. The aim of all of these techniques is to avoid any person’s contact with the blood or secretions of any patient, including those who are deceased.

Like HIV/AIDS during the initial years of the pandemic, Ebola is a disease which is striking first and hardest at the lives of people who have been devalued by the global power structure. Like HIV/AIDS, it threatens the future of whole communities, even countries, while posing a less direct threat to the global public at large.

Three dangerous responses that played out with HIV/AIDS are relevant for how we confront Ebola. (The difference is that the Ebola virus disease can shift from a local to a global threat much faster.) First, that the disease has become an excuse for further stigmatizing members of large groups of people; we are already seeing disturbing overreactions associating Africans, West Africans, or Black people with Ebola. Second, the international community failed to prioritize responding to a disease until it affected high-status people. This response to an infectious disease leads to unnecessary deaths and greater ultimate costs. Third, new and existing solutions are only accessible at a high price, out of reach of much of the world. A vital struggle looms over who gets access to newly created treatments and prevention measures as these are rolled out for Ebola. Those with wealth and exaggerated fears must not be allowed to outbid those who are at greatest risk.

Fortunately, the response to the AIDS pandemic also taught some key lessons for today’s crisis. AIDS patient-activists fought to have a seat at the planning table alongside doctors and pharmacologists. They also built community-centered health clinics, disrupted political life to win funding for treatment, changed the process of rolling out drugs in favor of dying patients, defied global intellectual property law to make drugs available to the global south, and fought back against stigmatizing the disease and the people most vulnerable to it.

As stated earlier, the reason(s) for the aforesaid hints boils around the fact that the Government of Sierra Leone is doing more talking than action. According to President Ernest Bai Koroma, “Action pass Intentions,” unfortunately, this slogan has not been visibly achieved during the Ebola fight; instead the Government is either blaming the international community or the negative attitudes of the citizens as a deterrent to eradicate the Ebola virus. Today, Freetown Municipality is not only a hot spot but the deadliest hub for the Ebola virus. What is the Government doing when people weds on almost daily basis?

As of yesterday, December 8th, 2014, Western Urban has recorded 1442 confirmed cases of Ebola for a single district since the virus got it way through Kailahun, Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. Western Rural also records 905 confirmed cases. According to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Freetown is the worst hit District in the country. Frustrating as the situation is: The total cumulative confirmed death for Sierra Leone is 1,786 as of December 8.

Meanwhile, let us briefly look at Public Health. First, public health systems are complex and interdependent. Doctors and nurses rely on fully stocked supply rooms, sterilized equipment, and carefully tested medicines. So, we’re talking about multiple workplaces, coordinating together. On the model of worker-run cooperatives around the world and telephone and transportation systems during workers’ uprisings across history, we envision people maintaining careful collaboration among themselves. Indeed, we suspect that excessive hierarchy, the profit motive, competition among private firms, and billing paperwork often get in the way of meaningful coordination.

Dealing with an Ebola outbreak does mean taking some actions extremely quickly. Rapid mobilization of doctors, building of treatment centers, or supplying of sterile equipment this month is the equivalent of several times that effort next month. The current crisis demonstrates that no existing social system does this kind of acceleration very effectively.

Massive spare capacity to act logistically, and to supply medical personnel (currently expressed through the US military’s capacity to build infrastructure, and the Cuban medical systems capacity to send doctors to any place on Earth) are other prerequisites for action. We envision a cooperatively-run economy to be capable of diverting these capacities from other uses more flexibly than either a capitalist or state-socialist order: if work is self-organized then any collective of workers might deploy to assist in a crisis, not just those that are part of the state or a purpose-built NGO. Imagine workers at FedEx being able to choose to dedicate some of their planes for sending vital supplies, or a builder’s union in Nigeria erecting a dozen Ebola treatment centers. If profit were not the constant purpose of most labor, what other human priorities might be put to the fore? What compromises or hardships would individuals and communities willingly choose in service of helping others? Outside of crisis, how might the gross disparities in resources, preparedness, and necessary tools for caring for human lives be undone, erasing the vulnerability created by centuries of extracting wealth from Africa?

Ebola outbreak is a difficult problem, but a solvable one. Late in the day, governments and wealthy individuals have put themselves forward as the solution to this crisis, even though much of the hard work is being done by local community members and independently-funded, modestly compensated volunteers.

Ebola is far from the most difficult problem we will face in our lifetimes. The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans are part of the world community that confronts such problems here and now. Our zeal to make the world just and free must lead not just to imagining an ideal society, but fighting for necessary care and wisdom in collective decisions today. We need to ask ourselves how to fight for the lives that are at risk when these decisions are made by institutions we rightly distrust. This is the Pen of The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans.