Addressing guests in the various regions including, Paramount Chiefs, Local Council Authorities, Ebola Survivors, Local and International Development Partners, the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Philip TetemaTondoneh, while sympathizing with families of the bereaved, described the events as a historic, sad and reflective moments. Dilating on the adverse effects of the epidemic on the country’s economy and lives of survivors, Mr. Tondoneh expressed government’s determination to remember those who died as result of the disease and address challenges facing the survivors. ‘Our presence here is a demonstration of the importance Government attaches to the programme”, he affirmed. He lamented that issues surrounding the disease were grossly politicized, adding that an exponential number of people died as a result of poor health management and lack of preparedness on the part of the health sector. He admonished all including local councils to reintroduce home and community hygiene to prevent a recurrence of Ebola and related diseases. The Deputy Minister challenged communities, state and non state actors to give open hands to Ebola Survivors and ensure they develop projects that would address their plight. The Deputy Minister who joined other dignitaries to plant trees at the cemeteries, called for the preservation of the designated Ebola cemeteries and appealed to authorities concerned to ensure they are sacred and serve as Monuments and Ecotourism Sites. He intimated that programme is aimed at building peace, and foster social cohesion while thanking the Japanese government and other partners for their supports. He also appealed for projects that would promote the welfare of communities surrounding the designated cemeteries. Giving an overview of the programme, the Director of Decentralization Secretariat, Alex Bonapha said the main thrust of the programme which is supported by the Japanese Government under the Japanese Social Development Project is to raise public awareness about the devastating effects of the Ebola Epiddemic, remember, honor the victims and address challenges facing the survivors. He opined that number of deaths reported during scourge was grossly misrepresented; noting that over 3,000 people lost their lives during the epidemic. He hoped the trees planted at the sites will stand the test of time, give dignity to the victims and serve as economic trees and source of remembrance. The Second phase of the project, he said will address challenges facing Ebola Survivors and entreated them to be courageous and remember that “all is not lost.” Capacity Building Manager, Decentralization Secretariat, John Mbraimah assured all of his institution’s desire to fully implement the project in collaboration with implementing partners and disclosed plans to undertake programmes that would promote the welfare of Ebola Survivors. Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Ambassador, Foday Yumkellah, admonished all to take issues affecting the nation with seriousness and expressed the need to always prepare for emergencies and collaborate to fight a common enemy. Deputy Minister of Health, Anthony Sandy, described the advent of Ebola as unfortunate as it brought untold sufferings to many and posed enormous challenges to the country’s health sector. He pledged government’s unwavering commitment to improving the country’s health care delivery services. Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Mohamed Kellah, emphasized the need for communities to be “emotionally connected” and create a proper foundation that would address future occurrence and pledged his ministry’s commitment to addressing the welfare of Ebola survivors with support from other partners. In their contributions, Members of Parliament, Local Council Authorities including Council Chairpersons, Paramount Chiefs, Representative from the Donor Community, Religious Leaders prayed for the victims and survivors, pledged their support to the project and joined their compatriots in thanking Government and stakeholders for the initiative.
Ebola Survivors across the four regions including, Chairman of the Bombali Ebola Survivors Association, Mariatu Kargbo, gave harrowing accounts of the scourge and prevailing deplorable socio-economic problems facing them and appealed for support.