President Koroma Urges SLAJ, Inter-Religious Council to Intensify War Against Ebola

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma last Thursday held wide-ranging discussions with representatives of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and the Executive Committee of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone to galvanize support in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the country.

Speaking to SLAJ Ebola Response Committee and the Inter-Religious Council at separate meetings at State House, President Koroma described the declaration of a State of Public Emergency as a demonstration of government’s continued commitment to the welfare and lives of Sierra Leoneans.

“Since the outbreak of the disease a lot of resources have been dedicated towards sensitization, surveillance, contact tracing and treatment. 500 cases have been confirmed with 167 deaths which clearly shows that we have not been able to stabilize the spread of the disease,” said President Koroma. He underscored the importance of the media in the fight against the disease as it deals directly with the public.

He however expressed hope that there are possibilities of survival through early detection and containment, and disclosed that over 100 people have survived the disease so far.

The President also told SLAJ that the US Embassy had informed government of the withdrawal of Peace Corps volunteers from the three Ebola affected countries, including Sierra Leone. He therefore encouraged SLAJ to continue to deepen sensitization on the dangers of Ebola as well as encourage the security personnel to carry out their duties.

President Koroma urged the international and donor community to intensify support towards the eradication of EVD as there is no country in the world that can single-handedly fight the deadly disease, and called on SLAJ to submit two names to be part of the Presidential Task Force on Ebola.

SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said the committee met with Editors, Programme and Station Managers and discussed extensively the way forward in the fight against the outbreak. He assured President Koroma that SLAJ is fully behind the government in the fight against EVD in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Lewis pledged that SLAJ will ensure the right messages reach the targeted communities, whilst changing the negative stories into positive ones.

The SLAJ President also noted that with the death of Dr Khan, there is now every likelihood that the Ebola virus does exist, and reiterated their continuous support to government in the fight against the outbreak.

Chairman of the SLAJ Ebola Response Committee, Dr Julius Spencer informed President Koroma that newspapers and radio stations have all consented to dedicate quarter page and half-hour daily for 100 days as a first step in their resolve to fight the Ebola outbreak.

In his engagement with the Inter-Religious Council, President Koroma implored religious leaders to intensify anti-Ebola messages to their respective congregations, as government is still faced with challenges in the fight against the deadly virus due to persistent denials and misrepresentation of the disease among the populace.

President Koroma disclosed that he was in Kailahun when Dr Khan passed away. He entreated all and sundry to join the fight against Ebola, adding that he called upon the council owing to its former role in successfully addressing issues of national concern.

He observed that some of the health workers died because of simple errors due to heat generated by protective gears they put on, and become infected as soon as they open them up to take in air. President Koroma said Ebola is neither regional, nor tribal, nor political, and urged everybody to do things strictly in accordance with universal health regulations.

The President lamented over the death of farmers, teachers, nurses, doctors and other innocent citizens to the deadly virus, describing it as a war in the Mano River Union (MRU). “There is so much at stake in the sub-region,” he mused.

He therefore charged the council with the task of social mobilization through sensitization among their various congregations.

Chairman of the Council, Sheik Abu Bakarr Conteh profusely thanked President Koroma for the confidence reposed in the Inter-Religious Council and assured him that they will do their best in the fight against the Ebola virus, noting that since the outbreak the council has been sensitizing their congregations on the realities, dangers and prevention of the disease.

Source : Government of Sierra Leone

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