By Hassan Bruz (SLENA-Northern Bureau Chief)…
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Centre-Retired Major Paolo Conteh has once again demonstrated his commitment in ensuring that the Ebola virus becomes a thing of the past in this country without further delay. This is evident in his recent unannounced tour to all the Ebola Hot Spots in the Northern Province. Even though he appeared quite unwell, the Retired Major was able to muscle enough strength to avail his physical presence to the Districts of Port Loko, Kambia, and Bombali.
The purpose of the visit, as he rightly put it, was to help him have a general feel of how the various Ebola Response Centres in these Districts were fairing on with regards the level of compliance of community members to the rules and regulations aimed at getting rid of the Ebola virus from the country. Retired Major Paolo Conteh’s visit was done during the ‘3 day stay at home ‘ period declared by President Ernest Bai Koroma. He was much more interested in knowing what else was required by these Districts in stopping the spread of the virus , and to enable the Country achieve its desire for a sustained zero record of Ebola new cases.
In Port Loko where he made his first stop, the visit coincided with a planned trip to Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom jointly organised by the District Ebola Response Centre [DERC] and the Port Loko District Ebola Task Force on Ebola. He arrived just before the high power delegation which comprised of the Regional Coordinator for Ebola Response-Mr. Jalloh, the Senior District Officer in Port Loko- Mr. Mansaray, the Chairman of the District Task Force – Mr. I. S Bangura and the District Coordinator for DERC in Port Loko –Hon. Raymond Kabia could depart for Kaffu Bullom.
The Retired Major who was accompanied by the Chief of Staff to the National Ebola Response Centre –Brigadier General Tarluva, was ushered to the Command Centre for an update on the prevailing situation in the District. He was subsequently informed by the outgoing British Officer in Charge of the Port Loko Command Centre- John Raine and Captain Bah of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces that the District was now recording a single digit but were yet to maintain zero Ebola figures. According to them, it was largely as a result of what can be referred to as the level of none compliance of members of the various Communities, either to the pieces of advice of the Medics or stubbornness in the implementation of the Bye Laws.
In their separate presentations, they explained how fear of the Ambulance serine, the use of Chlorine by Medics at the Holding or Treatment Centres, the Lack of Trust, Denial and Stigma have always proved to be some of the key causes for the Ebola cases that have continued to surface from the District of Port Loko. They singled out Kaffu Bullom, Lokomasama and a few more Places as Hot spot Chiefdoms in the District, which they had subsequently classified as Priority zones. They zeroed with a detailed explanation on how they have resolved to step up Social Mobilisation, Contact Tracing and Surveillance in both the High and Low Priority Areas, in a bid to ensure zero Ebola New Cases in the entire District of Port Loko.
Brigadier General Tarluva is the Chief of Staff to the National Ebola Response Centre and was in the company of the Chief Executive Officer for NERC in this unannounced Tour. He wondered why there were still Ebola cases in Port Loko District in spite of all the resources that have been poured in the District to fight the spread of the Disease as well as the impressive plan of the Command and Control Centre to end the scourge. He placed his suspicion on the prevalence of Traditional Healers and Secret Societies which he opined were still very high in the Port Loko District.
The Chief Executive Officer –Retired Major Paolo Conteh squarely blamed the Paramount Chiefs for the apparent failure to have nabbed such ugly developments in their respective Chiefdoms. He said Paramount Chief are bound in their capacity as Traditional Leaders, to enforce the implementation of the Bye Laws and even conditioned the activities of Traditional Healers or Herbalists to properly comply to the provisions of the Bye Laws ,so as to discourage secret burials and other forms of unwanted practises. He recalled the promise Paramount Chiefs have always made to His Excellency – President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma which means they ought to be now recording zero Ebola New Cases if only they were committed enough to those promises.
Retired Major Paolo Conteh used the occasion to inform them about the admirable efforts of the People in the East and Southern Regions, particularly those in Bonthe, Kenema and Kailahun Districts who have been scoring zero new Ebola case for very close to one hundred consecutive days. He said that was a vivid indication that those people were very much determined to conclude the Ebola war so that they could resort to their lives. He noted that it would be unfair for them to be put on the hold by the apparent none compliance and arrogance of people where the disease is much more prevalence. The Chief Executive Officer went further to inform the gathering about the pending visit of His Excellency –President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to the District, and how it would not be good for those Paramount Chiefs and Chiefdoms that continue to record Ebola Cases. He wondered what else is actually required to be done in these areas after Government and its Development Partners have provided all that is basically needed for the spread of the virus to have been nabbed long before now. He concluded by urging for the full implementation of the Bye Laws.