Kailahun People Beg MSF To Stay

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
Reporting from Kailahun


The people of Kailahun have expressed great gratitude to Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) for their contribution to eradicating the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from the district, but are extremely sad that the international medical organization is packing to leave.

“Please don’t go MSF; please stay. We’ll give you more land to build your hospital and do your good work. We’re very grateful for your work here during this Ebola crisis,” pleaded the Chiefdom Speaker on behalf of his Paramount Chief who is currently overseas on medical grounds.

The Chiefdom Speaker was speaking Friday 20th February, 2015, during the formal handing over of an Isolation Unit built by MSF to the people of Kailahun through the District Health Management Team (DHMT).

“Ebola is still around us; but please stay not just for Ebola,” the Chiefdom Speaker continued with his plea.
The structure consists of a triage, laboratory, administrative office, kitchen and two toilets facilities built in the compound of the Kailahun Government Hospital (KGH). The MSF Ebola Treatment Center elsewhere in the District has been dismantled, and about 400 local staffs laid off with their benefits fully paid.

The plea for MSF to stay was re-echoed by speaker after speaker during the handing over ceremony at the KGH grounds.
The Town Chief, Maada Alpha Ndoleh, was more concerned about the local economy that MSF stimulated through the employment of young people of the district.

“Most of the youth are now building houses from the proceeds of their MSF salaries and others now have capital to start their own businesses,” said Chief Ndoleh.

The district’s Mammy Queen, Satta Bundeh, speaking in her native tongue, expressed mixed feelings about the imminent departure of MSF. She said as women, they would have loved to show their appreciation to MSF by organizing a traditional ceremony of singing and dancing but the bye-laws were still in force. She, however, was concerned whether MSF had trained local personnel to handle such epidemic in future.

Equally, the Medical Superintendent (MS) of the (KGH), Dr. Samuel Patrick E. Massaquoi was worried about the hospital’s lack of capacity to maintain the isolation unit, even though he claimed he (and his staff) learnt a lot from the organization.

“The hospital is challenged with lack of resources,” lament Dr. Massaquoi. “Our two generators are down. There’s no pipe borne water here. Our water wells are powered by electricity. The last time this hospital was electrified was in 2003! We actually know what to do, but we don’t have the resources.”
He said the Ebola outbreak was just a distraction from the normal challenges of the hospital.

“There were other non-Ebola diseases like malaria and typhoid killing the people,” Dr. Massaquoi mourned, and appealed to MSF and other international partners to come to the aid of the KGH.
However, the District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr. James Squire, said MSF has a left a legacy of capacity building, training more than 1000 people; some of them health promoters and hygienists.
“MSF now expects the people of Kailahun to take ownership of the health facility. We therefore rely on the community and the government to support us with resources and continued training,” said the DMO.

Meanwhile, MSF Project Co-ordinator Judith Hetellier, said they’ve heard the pleas of the Kailahun people and assured that they would follow up on them. She said they were proud to be part of the fight against Ebola in Kailahun in particular and the entire country as a whole.

“We worked with health officials who we believe are now equipped with the requisite skills to continue our work. They now know how to protect themselves and how to prevent the spread of diseases such as Ebola,” said Judith.

MSF arrived in Kailahun in the heat of the Ebola outbreak in June 2014, and up to October 2014 the MSF Ebola Treatment Center in Kailahun was the only ETC in the country. The center treated about 1,219 cases.

Initially, MSF encountered stiff resistance from the people of Kailahun; in some instances they were ambushed and attacked and chased out of several villages out of ignorance by the people.
Since 10th December, 2014, Kailahun District has not registered any new Ebola confirmed case.

“However, that doesn’t mean Ebola is out of the country,” Judith cautioned. “There’s some kind of normalcy returning to Kailahun, but I urge you to stay alert!”

Judith emphasized that the isolation unit is for the future, as MSF slowly pulls out of the district. She said by accepting the isolation unit, the DHMT has accepted the responsibility of case management.
As of Sunday 22nd February, 2015, the unit is prepared to start receiving cases.

On behalf of the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma and the people of Kailahun District, the Resident Minister East, Maya Kaikai, thanked MSF for their timely intervention in the fight against Ebola in the country and appealed to the organization (and other partners) to start considering post-Ebola interventions in the area of health, education, agriculture and socio-economic development.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL)
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