Insights from Sierra Leoneans on Ebola via Twitter

Last week I was part of a group of Sierra Leoneans who participated in a Twitter chat,  hosted by myself @wcaworld, Joy Spencer @Joyful90802 Veralyn Williams @Veralynmedia and members of the Citizens Ebola Response community in Sierra Leone. This twitter chat was created out of a conversation I had with a close friend of mine back in Sierra Leone who is a medical doctor. When I found out about the campaign to help bring drugs to save the life of Dr. Modupe Cole (May his soul rest in peace). I asked her if she thought a twitter conversation could help spark the dialogue, and hopefully shed some light on some collective Sierra Leonean thoughts, she agreed so I proceeded and got others on board.

 The  conversation was focused on the  Ebola  epidemic and what we as Sierra Leoneans both in the diaspora and in Sierra Leone could do to help eradicate this terrible disease once and for all. The chat was quite enlightening and engaging and members were all truly invested in seeking not just solutions in the moment but also long term strategies that can be implemented so that such an epidemic doesn’t spread and take the lives of so many Sierra Leoneans as this current one.  I decided to document some of what I found to be  most intriguing conversations that came out of the one hour chat. As mentioned by one of the members on the chat Mr. Akindele Decker, I think is worth exploring further in different spaces be it research, activist, grassroots, governmental levels especially as it relates to prevention in the future.

  1. Concerning the medication Zmapp there was a lot of discomfort and scepticism around the administering of the medication . There was a serious point of debate on whether the medications should be administered if so by whom and for whom. Additionally many ethical issues and most people on the chat did not think it was a good idea to administer the medications during this crisis. If any medications are brought to Sierra Leone or West Africa in general, we must know what exactly we are signing up for. The medical trials need to be tested for a while and citizens must be given informed consent prior to any type of distribution. 
  2. It was heavily discussed at the early on set of the chat that technology needs to be at the fore front of detection of the virus. This was more specifically in relation to the new areas being infected to enable health officials and Sierra Leoneans to track trends, as well as track poor health facilities that need to be shut down in Freetown. 
  3. A wave of optimism swept across the chat when the question was asked about survivors of the disease, members tweeted various sources that showed the many victims who had survived the disease. From this I gathered that the success stories of survivors needs to be documented in order for more trust to be placed in the detection and  the curing of Ebola virus, which will in turn only help mitigate and hopefully lessen the cases of Ebola.  
  4. Governments need to be held accountable in the future for delayed responses to saving the lives of citizens. There was overall a sense of anger, urgency and frustration as per how the government handled the Ebola epidemic, as far as communication and implementing more vigilant preventative measures across the country. Comments overall ranged that governments should do their best in the future and set systems in place to ensure that the virus does not spread as well as make concerted efforts with their citizens to ensure life and well being for every Sierra Leonean.
  5. Most people on the chat geared towards the fact that prevention is key, and looking at the future of of the Sierra Leone health care system as a whole. The Ebola outbreak highlighted the broken systems that exist in our various countries. On that point members of the chat stressed that it was necessary to boost our education in the areas of science research. Emphasis was placed on having more technical and skilled medical workers to prepare for future outbreaks of such diseases that can be curtailed. The consensus around this point was that this could ultimately strengthen our health system and reduce reliance on the Western world for help.
  6. Sierra Leoneans and Africans shouldn’t be stigmatised, members of the Community Response Group emphasized that this is an education approach and that all Sierra Leoneans shouldn’t be stereotyped and treated as carrying Ebola.

For more on the conversation follow hashtag #stopebola14

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