Echoing Dr Paul Farmer, Harvard Medical School Professor of Infectious Diseases and founder of Partners in Health, that the Ebola crisis in West Africa is exacerbated by a lack of “staff, stuff, and systems”, members of the Sierra Leone UK Diaspora Ebola Response Taskforce have today announced their intention to despatch the first of many container-loads of urgently needed medical supplies and equipment to Sierra Leone on Saturday 22 November. The Taskforce has also extended a hand of partnership to authorities in Sierra Leone to strengthen systems to ensure supplies get to where and when they are needed most. Taskforce members have partnered with Phoenix Resource Centre, an Environmental Charity that distributes surplus stock from corporations to nonprofit causes. Phoenix is making available to the Taskforce priority supplies for the Ebola response.
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma said his country needs “a Community Ebola Care and Holding Centre comprising 20 beds in each of our 149 chiefdoms and 20 centres in the Western Area.” The President highlighted the need for “PPEs, IV fluids, anti-bodies for superimposed infections, food supplies.” “We recognize that many donors are contributing to the emergency by sending medical supplies,” noted UK-based Sierra Leonean medical doctor and Taskforce member, Dr Achmed Kamara. “We are joining the battle to send in more supplies because healthcare workers get through them very fast with high infection rates and the distributed model of care in communities; there are huge logistical and coordination challenges that we as citizens abroad feel we can partner with authorities in Sierra Leone to address,” Kamara added.Recognizing the urgency of the situation, members of the Equipment and Supplies Pillar of the Taskforce set themselves target to raise £45,000 by the end of December to cover shipping, distribution, coordination, and contingency costs for the project.
Through the generosity of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO); AITO members who have started an ‘Extra Ebola AITO Fund’; SLWT, a Sierra Leone diaspora-led UK-based charity; the Sierra Leonean-run UK Rockel Shipping Company Ltd; members of the public; and donors who prefer to remain anonymous, Taskforce members have received pledges of nearly £30,000 so far. “Many AITO members have done business in Sierra Leone and sent clients to that beautiful country,” explained Kate Kenward, AITO’s Executive Director, “they have professional and personal relationships and are deeply concerned about this Ebola outbreak, that’s why the Association and members felt compelled to support this campaign in whatever way we can.”
The Taskforce has set up a fundraising page.
Taskforce members are working with Sierra Leone government authorities both in the UK through the Sierra Leone High Commission and in Freetown through the Chief Medical Officer, of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr Brima Kargbo, and the CEO of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), Major (rtd) Palo Conteh. “I am very glad that Sierra Leoneans in the UK responded to my call to establish a Taskforce to respond to this unprecedented Ebola crisis,” stated Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Edward Turay, “I shall be on hand on Saturday 22 November to help load this first container and my office will do all it can to support rapid processing of these goods once they arrive and their onward distribution to where they are desperately needed,” said Mr Turay.
Welcoming this initiative by Sierra Leoneans in the UK, Major (rtd) Palo Conteh noted: “It is heartening to note that Sierra Leoneans around the world act in solidarity in this our dire time of need, the NERC will work closely with concerned Sierra Leoneans in the UK to end this Ebola outbreak as soon as possible and ease the pain and suffering it is causing.”
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