By Dennis Kabatto – Even before President Ernest Koroma declared a public state of emergency in Sierra Leone and days before the international community issued an Ebola red alert, Sierra Leonean born Mustapha Wai and his colleagues were advocating for a medical state of emergency in Sierra Leone and offering best practices suggestions to combat the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic.
Mr. Wai, a Certified Public Accountant and Management Consultant based in Washington, DC and his colleagues have organized a Sierra Leone Diaspora Prayer Teleconference Vigil to End Ebola on Saturday at 4 pm (Eastern Standard Time (EST).
I caught up with Mr. Wai on social media for a brief interview where he explained the creation of the prayer teleconference vigil and argues that unless something radical is done quickly and drastically now, we are doomed.
Excerpts of some of what Mr. Wai said follows.
Who are the principals organizing the Prayer Vigil Teleconference to End Ebola in Sierra Leone?
I am not the sole organizer…we have up to seven individuals who along with me came up with the idea and we have the endorsement of several us-based Sierra Leonean organizations including Kenema District Development Mission (KDDM), Pujehun District Descendants Organizations (PDDA), Fulla Progressive Union (FPU), Kailahun District Organizations (KDO), etc. We also have the endorsement of Sierra Leone Policy Watch, headed by Jesmed and Jesmed is one of the organizers
What are the names of the representatives of the aforementioned US based Sierra Leonean organizations that have endorsed the teleconference?
Representatives including Foday Sesay of KDDM, Dr. Joe Nuni of PDDA, Jesmed Suma of SLPW and Mr. Mohamed L. Bah of FPU. Mr. Sidique Wai of U.A.C has also endorsed the vigil. All have asked their membership to attend the vigil.
Are there any endorsement from the UK, Australia and other places apart from the USA?
We have reached out to several friends and family members in UK and Europe, other organizers are doing same. But it may be a good idea to identify and reach out to Sierra Leonean organizations in UK and European Union (EU). We plan to reach out to the Sierra Leonean Ambassador.
Having a prayer vigil is good but realistically speaking, how would that stop Ebola from spreading or escalating?
We want to pray for our people and educate them on how to prevent the spread. We are putting resources together to help provide logistics
From what regions of the world will people be able to participate in the teleconference?
Callers from Europe, UK, Canada, Argentina, Australia and North America. We will have an update on the Ebola crisis and a couple of guest speakers within the first 25 min, then we will give 25minutes to Christian prayers, summons and reading of Bible verses, and 25 minutes to the Muslim prayers, and 10 min to all other religions to pray silently.
There seems to be major issues with sensitization on Ebola infection and prevention and the overall dissemination of information to the people. What is your reaction to people with skeptical attitudes about the origins of the Ebola outbreak who are suggesting a government cover-up?
There are challenges in the Ebola awareness and prevention efforts stemming from lack of adequate transparency and integrity in the crisis management process. Generally, lack of transparency and accountability in any process will breed skepticism. Several occurrences have left some to question the background of the outbreak and how it got to Sierra Leone. There is a total lack of trust and confidence in the government and medical system; many still believe there is a conspiracy behind the Ebola outbreak and that Ebola treatment centers are nothing but death chambers
The second part to that question is on your recent post on Sierra Leone Policy Watch’s Face book page, you questioned the accuracy of the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health’s (SLMOH) Ebola statistics. Do you believe that there are serious discrepancies in reporting Ebola updates between the World Health Organization (WHO) and SLMOH?
Yes, something is not adding up and that is why people are skeptical.
Is there anything else you want to add regarding your proposed prayer vigil teleconference?
I have not been able to buy-in and secure the input of other organizers of the Vigil. But here is what I have to publish about this Ebola. Given, the current rate at which the Ebola virus is spreading across Sierra Leone and the sub-region, something unconventional and unprecedented needs to be done.
These are desperate times. What we need are desperate measures. After seen the documentary: “Ebola: The Plague Fighters”, A NOVA Discovery Science documentary and taken into account the current state of the Ebola crisis, I have come to the conclusion that unless something radical is done quickly and drastically now, we are doomed.
And the doomsday scenario has the tendency to leave the entire country devastated as hospitals and Ebola treatment centers will be abandoned while medical practitioners flee for their lives. Scores of Ebola corpses will be left to rot in the streets of our towns and cities; entire households and families will be wiped out; flights to and from the country will be grounded; foreign countries will stop issuing visas, evacuate their citizens and shutdown their embassies; public utilities such as power and running water facilities will be abandoned leaving the country dark and without water; and businesses and food markets will shut their doors.
While this scenario is probable given the current state of the crisis, appropriate actions can be taken now to avoid it.
What should be done now: Declare a Medical State of Emergency so that government can secure the necessary powers, share leading roles in the Ebola crisis management with reputable international partners including the World Health Organization, and secure resources needed to curb the spread of the virus
Establish Ebola testing and treatment centers in all regions where the outbreak is spreading and avoid taking Ebola patients on long road trips across the country
Provide adequate training and establish improved, protective, control measures and continuously monitored Ebola testing and treatment centers in order to reduce the risk of contracting the virus by medical practitioners and caregivers
Engage trusted civil society and political leaders, role models, traditional and religious leaders, and other stakeholders so they can help secure the people’s trust in the government and the medical system by educating citizens about the disease and sharing necessary prevention tips widely
Ensure government and medical practitioners are open and transparent about, and demonstrate integrity in the Ebola crisis management process, accountability for resources allocated, education and updates on the outbreak, and prevention and case management activities
Take a radical approach toward the Ebola awareness and prevention campaigns including door-to-door process to identify suspected cases in areas where outbreak has been reported; provide effective security, care and management of holding centers for suspected cases; and maximum security of treatment centers
Prohibit unnecessary gatherings in public places, close all non-essential border entry points, establish adequately equipped holding areas at major airports and major border posts, and monitor and test all incoming travelers using adequately trained medical practitioners in well protective gears.