As AWOL continues to demonstrate leadership in galvanizing public participation in national causes, they’ve joined forces with Airtel and the All Stars union of musicians on a 30-day long campaign against Ebola in Sierra Leone.
June 2014 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) It’s the month of June, and it’s that time of the year when they’re getting prepared to roll out another annual school feeding and awards programme for school children in commemoration of the Day of the African Child in some underprivileged community. But it’s a different June this year; their country has been gripped by fear of the devastation of an unfolding Ebola outbreak, already hitting some regions in the East and South of the country. And they have to do something about it; they have to help the authorities address the situation. In fact, when it comes to putting the nation first and complementing the efforts of government in pushing the development agenda forward, no organisation does it better than the All Works of Life (AWOL).
They began to demonstrate such patriotism way back in their formative stages in early 2000 when they boosted the health sector by donating a US$75, 000 x-ray machine (and a power generator) to the country’s only referral hospital, Connaught Hospital, which lacked one at the time. They did not only stop at that; they went further to volunteer themselves to scrub and paint the walls of the hospital’s x-ray department. And as recent as the year 2011, when the nation was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, AWOL played a pivotal role in not only whipping up public enthusiasm in the celebrations but also supporting with logistics. So when the dreaded Ebola virus hit the nation most recently, AWOL naturally wanted to be at the fore front in raising public awareness about the reality of the disease and help spread the message of prevention.
Because of its long standing credibility, AWOL attracted partnership from mobile phone company Airtel-Sierra Leone and the All Stars union of Sierra Leonean musicians to launch a 30-day Ebola sensitisation and prevention campaign country wide, which started on Monday 30th July 2014 in the areas currently under attack by the disease- Kailahun, Kenema and even Bo. “We are doing this to save our people. Ebola doesn’t care whether you’re APC or SLPP or PMDC or UDM, or whether you are poor or rich; we are all at risk. So we must all positively respond to the clarion call of our President to help in our individual and collective ways to prevent the spread of the disease to other regions of the country,” said AWOL Chairman, Amb. Anthony Navo Jnr., who led the team of AWOL members, Airtel officials, musicians and volunteer National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) to Bo and Kenema. With support from the locals, the team distributed bottles of hand sanitizers, water and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on the Ebola virus to schools and communities. The team also held radio discussion programmes engaging the public on the nature of the disease and how everyone could help prevent its spread. A special Ebola song, and jingles with prevention messages, recorded by the All Stars musicians were also regularly played on radio.
Staff of Airtel Sierra Leone further supported the initiative by donating one-day pay cut from their salaries, amounting to 70 Million Leones (about US$18, 000). According to the company’s Managing Director, Sudipto Chowdhury, they are also providing telecommunications support with mobile phones and a special website for the exchange of information in tackling the spread of the disease. “We want to help give assurance, education and empowerment to the people of Sierra Leone to successfully fight Ebola. And if there’s any organisation in the country that is trustworthy enough to partner with, it is AWOL. We are therefore very proud to partner with them in this important national endeavour,” said Chowdhury.
As at press time, about 388 people have been tested with 199 laboratory confirmed cases. 65 have been confirmed dead, while 23 cases were discharged. Majority of these cases occurred in Kailahun and Kenema districts. There’s the fear that these figures will increase with suspected cases of infected persons on the loose. President Ernest Bai Koroma has already declared the fight against the disease as national, calling on every individual and organisation to play a part. By the time the 30-day long sensitisation and prevention campaign expires, AWOL Chairman Amb. Navo hopes that more well-meaning citizens and organisations would have come on board to ensure a sustained campaign against the Ebola outbreak.