The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this morning Sierra Leone as Ebola free at a colourful and well attended ceremony at the Bintumani International Conference Centre at Aberdeen in Freetown.
The ceremony was attended by cabinet ministers, members of parliament, senior government officials, traditional leaders, members and Dean of the diplomatic and consular corps, the media as well as ordinary Sierra Leoneans, including survivors of the evil virus called Ebola.
However, this event could not have come without a price in terms of collateral damage as thousands of Sierra Leoneans, over 200 health workers and 11 doctors lost their lives to the disease.
Furthermore, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma’s nationwide social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola made considerable progress to break the chain of transmission of the disease.
The significance of his nationwide social mobilization tours stem from the fact that paramount chiefs, religious leaders, MPs, traditional and cultural society heads, Councilors and other stakeholders accepted and believed his message that they shoulder the responsibility of driving the Ebola virus out of their communities. It was this social mobilization by the president that turned out to be the game changer in the fight to eradicate Ebola from Sierra Leone, and consequently the WHO declaring the country as Ebola free today Saturday 7 November, 2015.
A number of diplomats have commended the efforts of President Koroma in his social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola culminating to the end of the outbreak today.
Please read below the testimonies of some of our development partners as well as the CEO of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC):
State House Communication Unit:
QUESTION – Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO), what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?
British High Commissioner Peter West – ANSWER: I am full of admiration for President Koroma’s leadership and I think an outstanding aspect of that leadership has been his work on social mobilization. From the onset, I knew that President Koroma believes that without the cooperation and understanding of the people of Sierra Leone we will not be able to overcome the disease. Over many months I have travelled with him to every district in this country. In some cases, more than half a dozens times to problematic districts. I have seen him explained, persuade, cajoled and insist on people doing the right things to end the transmission chains. In his recent tours, I have seen his emphasis on building from the lessons we have learnt during Ebola so that Sierra Leone emerges stronger and more resilient with structures which are able to provide the services which the people of Sierra Leone deserve.
As we get to zero plus forty-two, I am proud that the UK along with other international partners has been able to play a full part in this fight against Ebola. But most of all, I want to congratulate President Koroma on a job very well done.
QUESTION 2: Moving forward, you have been very supportive of government’s action in stemming the virus, what areas do you think government should strengthen to equip the response for future outbreaks?
Peter West – ANSWER: I think it’s very important people learnt lessons from this episode. There is more capacity and more qualified people now to deal with this sort of crisis in the future. I think it is important also we embrace those people and those institutions so that there is a stronger structure to deal with this crisis in the future. And I think now in the next few years we are working very closely with President Koroma and his government on a recovery package on six specific areas which the government has set out and to make sure that the country develops and returns to the ambitions set out in the Agenda for Prosperity.
Discussion with WHO Representative – Dr Andres Nordstrom
State House Communication Unit –
QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?
Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER: I think the socio mobilization part of the response possibly has been most important and critical element because not until we really began to reach out to people to engage them, to communicate with the people that we can see the difference. Because we need the people to fully engage and fully also to trust and to also change some of the behaviours. So I think the social mobilization the president has been providing leadership for has been extremely important for this outbreak. I think there is a good platform; there is a lot of good experience and resources reaching out to people in communities that we need to build on to tackle other health problems in the future.
State House Communication Unit
– QUESTION: Dr Nordstrom, how would you describe the leadership of President Koroma?
Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER: He is really a leader that is providing both inspiration and leadership but also is a person that stays very calm and somebody also you both feel trust with and somebody who you can like as well.
Interview with CEO of NERC Major (Rtd) Paolo Conteh
State House Communication Unit –
QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the WHO, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?
CEO NERC – ANSWER: I think the president’s own contribution particularly in the area of social mobilization was key to the fight. I say so for two reasons because in terms of social mobilization it is not only about the message, it is about who carries the message – the messenger – and in President Koroma you have a good messenger because when he speaks people listen. People are drawn to him. So his contribution in my view was immense and I think it helped. He took the message to every district and I was with him.
He went around the country; spoke to paramount chiefs, religious leaders, tribal heads and so on. So I will say his contribution was immense in particularly social mobilization, getting the message to people to listen and do the right things.