The President of African Development Bank, Dr Donald Kaberuka on the 26th August paid a courtesy call on President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House.
The meeting which was aimed at finding concrete ways in terms of financial support to tackle the Ebola outbreak and other issues related to Sierra Leone's development aspirations was partly held behind closed doors. The visit is among a number of high profile visits to the country to assess the outbreak and scale up support to halt the Ebola spread.
President Koroma informed Dr Kaberuka and his entourage that the country declared the Ebola outbreak on the 25th May after neighbouring Guinea and Liberia declared theirs. President Koroma went on to state that even though the country has lost some lives, it has also recorded a considerable number of survivors of which they have been infected by the virus but later went through the treatment centers and declared to be Ebola free. "Our treatment centers can still work people through from a period of infection to a period of no infection at all." It gives a lot of hope; he said and believes that "we must use this message to tell the world that all is not lost in the country".
In the fight against Ebola, the President underscored the importance of the treatment centers, surveillance officers, the burial teams and social mobilizers. President Koroma further explained that the government together with the World Health Organization and Local partners has developed a national response programme for six months that is projected to be around $26m Dollars.
Acknowledging the effects of the Ebola outbreak on the country's health system, President Koroma said that there are huge gaps to contend with especially on the number of treatment centers that are required in combating the disease. The President believes that with two additional treatment centers, it would release the pressure that is now put on Kenema and Kailahun with both reducing the waiting period of people and cutting down on traveling time for patients that are infected. President Koroma lauded the efforts of the health workers and pledged his commitment to further motivate them especially at a moment like this when the country is experiencing the outbreak.
President Koroma further informed the delegation about the number of contact tracers and surveillance officers trained, saying that nine hundred workers have been trained so far out of a projected number of two thousand workers. The president is of the firm belief that if "we can track and isolate the infected persons we will be able to minimize the trickling number of cases into the treatment centers". In this regard, President Koroma called on all Sierra Leoneans to come together for a collaborative approach and endeavour to educate each and every member of their households.
Whilst registering his commitment to the fight against the Ebola virus, the President noted that government has taken a number of measures by quarantining the epicenters and some affected homes, which he said, will be of immense help in curbing the disease. He noted that food and other items are being provided to the quarantined areas and isolation centers.
Dr Kaberuka in making his statement said that he was very keen on how best the African Development Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone can come together to win this fight and address other socio-economic activities. He said that the country will be challenged with post Ebola crisis in terms of livelihood and the trading economics of the country but said that his visit will help to effectively manage the effects on the overall economy.
The AfDB President disclosed that he has together with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, on Tuesday, August 26 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reinforcing a US $60 million Bank grant to help strengthen West Africa's public health systems in response to the Ebola crisis.
The funds, which will be implemented by WHO, will be used to facilitate the recruitment and training of health workers, procure equipment and medicine, and ensure that the required logistics are in place at the local level to provide emergency health services to Ebola patients.
Dr. Keberuka is currently serving his second five-year term as President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB). He was first elected in 2005, becoming the seventh president of the Bank Group since its establishment in 1963.