The World Health organisation has announced that more than 10,000 cases of Ebola have been recorded. Almost 5,000 patients have died with the worse hit country so far being Liberia with 4665 cases, followed by Sierra Leone with 3,896 and Guinea with 1,553. Cases in Liberia and Guinea have appeared to slow but the virus is out of control in Sierra Leone. 244 health care workers have been killed by the virus out of 450 infected across all countries hit.
As the international effort gathers momentum with the USA and the UK leading funding and resource deployment, British Sierra Leoneans have been at the vanguard of more localised responses.
You will find more statistics at Statista
10 ways the Sierra Leonean diaspora have responded to the Ebola crises:
- Spear-headed a surge in local remittances to family and friends to alleviate the cost pressures inevitably resulting from rising prices during the crises and contributing donations to various NGO organisations such as Medicins Sans Frontieres.
- Logistical organisation of the distribution of 2,600 meals to seven different communities during the three day lock down by the NGO lunchbox. The organisation now plans to expand this initiative to medical centres to provide 50,000 meals over the next three months to hospitals in Freetown, the capital.
- The Sierra Leonean War Trust For Children (SLWT) who identify and fund projects to improve the welfare of disadvantaged youths, sent 750 raincoats for commercial motorbike riders so that they could maintain their livelihoods.
- A UK Sierra Leonean Diaspora Task Force (SLDTF) was set up to coordinate activities regarding funding, Ebola related job training, political lobbying support, information provision on the logistics and costs of sending equipment and supplies, and general communication and networking.
- The SLDTF negotiated with the UK National Health Service (NHS) and the Department for International Development (Dfid) to recruit staff for the clinics being built in the country.
- The SLDTF is supporting UK-MED’s recruitment campaign to register healthcare professionals to deploy with Ebola teams in the country.
- The SLWT set up two recruitment fairs in London and Manchester to engage qualified medical and non-medical personnel.
- Fund raising events for Advocaid, The SLDTF and the King’s College Sierra Leone Partnership were held.
- Petitions for the fast tracking of Ebola treatments and vaccine research has been ongoing.
- Lobbying to ensure that business operations continue so that the net result of the Ebola crises does not also have the effect of wiping out jobs and creating further instability.
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr – Chairperson and co-founder of SLWT is seen in the video below, speaking during an Overseas Development Institute event ‘Ebola: What more can be done?’. Watch her passionately lobbying for support to ensure that local businesses are kept afloat and that the economic environment remains conducive to ongoing commercial activity. She captures the spirit of a people who are motivated to help.
Whatever Sierra Leone’s diaspora can do at this stage, will be a small but necessary response to the crises, and very welcome. The bigger challenge however is the lack of a proper healthcare system. The video below shows a tour round Connaught Hospital by the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership. Connaught Hospital is the main hospital in the country and the tertiary referral centre. The film gives a pointed insight into the scale of the resource problem, but also the extent of the opportunity. If you had a magic wand, you’d probably pull it down and start again.
It is really difficult to balance the priorities of a nation which needs everything all at once. If there were the resources and a more strategic view was taken, it would start with making Connaught Hospital fit for purpose with the appropriate resources for training as well as delivering care. Linking it with 3 to 4 regional centres of a similar standard could begin the creation of an integrated healthcare system, but that can only be seen if health is regarded as wealth.
If there were the resources, you would also want to pull down Kroo Bay at the same time and set up an urban transformation programme providing jobs, training as well as homes that could last a lifetime. Perhaps the UK diaspora can help once the crises is over by working with the relevant authorities to channel funding into a single resource intensive project that could make the biggest difference.
There are approximately 40,000 Sierra Leoneans in the UK and USA, assuming that 50 per cent were of sufficient economic means, they could raise $30m between them, the cost of a state of the art hospital for a developing country (there are low cost options, but that’s another debate). That would be a start. It is also more than what could be achieved by a relatively small group of people within the country itself.