Project Cholera-- Fundraising To Contain Epidemic After Sierra Leone Tragedy

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Survivor struggling through thick mud. Photo: Yvette Valcarcel.

[Commentary]

The sad mudslide tragedy that took the lives of almost 1,000 people in Freetown stands as another dark chapter for the country of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The country has experienced its share of both a drastic epidemic and brutal civil war and it has yet to heal.

With technology as advanced as it is today, the world was able to see captured disturbing images of dead bodies, and collapsing buildings in real time with rescue teams throwing life-saving ropes to victims just to save lives. In the meantime, the chatter and opinions expressed and posted on social media have provided information about the tragedy but yet little action and tangible strategies have been offered not only to provide emergency assistance but also to design a long-term plan to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring in the future.

As I stated in my most recent FACEBOOK posting on the day of the tragedy that generated an army of responses from friends and supporters who wish to assist victims’ families as well as the displaced people in Freetown, my focus is not on what could have been done to prevent the tragedy, although that is an important part of the equation. As we now know, those steps were not taken. Therefore, it is pointless to begin laying blame on the government, although one could successfully argue that with strict enforcement of building codes, some of this tragedy could have been avoided.

Rather than lamenting over what could have been, I prefer to devote my effort and time in focusing immediately on what we can do, as sons, daughters, friends and all people of goodwill, to provide assistance to those who have lost families and loved ones, and homes. This is exceptionally sad, my friends. But pontificating and posting messages of despair on social media is not what the suffering people and country need.

What they need is help now – material help, combined with prayers. As we say here in the US, and perhaps everywhere in the world, those who talk and do nothing to help the situation do not count. Instead, those who take meaningful and decisive action to help those in need are the communities and constituencies I wish to engage and work with in going forward. I need you, and the people of Sierra Leone definitely need your help now.

THE RESILIENCE OF THE SIERRA LEONEAN PEOPLE: Having gone through a bloody civil war and coping with the aftermath of the deadly Ebola epidemic that took countless lives in our beloved nations, the world has come to realize that Sierra Leoneans are a resilient people. The people suffered a 17-year bloody civil war that tore communities and families apart but still managed to come together to turn things around. With a massive infusion from donor countries, the Sierra Leone Diaspora support, and people of goodwill all over the world who provided both financial and material resources, the nation was able to slowly but steadily come out of the Ebola epidemic with a robust public health education strategy that has today contained the epidemic.

It is worthwhile to note that some of us were even criticized for becoming advocates for transparency, demanding a targeted distribution of donor and private resources to the needy in the three countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As we once again seek to engage our friends and people of goodwill to help our country during this tragedy, lingering questions on people’s minds must be considered, similar to those that arose in past tragedies.

Allow me to list the following concerns/questions for the benefit of the reading and concerned public: Will the resources donated for this cause go directly to those who need the support? Who will collect the financial donations and how will those funds be managed, so that the process will instill public confidence in those administering the funds? Where will material donations that are collected be stored for distribution? Who will pay for shipment of donations to Sierra Leone in a timely manner so that such goods will not idly sit in ports and customs at a time when people need them? What will be the role of the respective Sierra Leone government agencies in the receipt and distribution of these donated materials that we hope to solicit and transmit to the people of Sierra Leone? Which Non -Governmental Organizations on the ground in Freetown do we hope to partner that is credible and trustworthy?

These are all legitimate and very important questions and concerns that must be considered carefully and addressed directly, to a usually rather suspicious and wary public that still wishes to assist Sierra Leone during this crisis. Without addressing these concerns with truth and conviction, our expected resource mobilization initiative will definitely hit a dead end.

But knowing what I know, and the credibility of the organizations with whom we are partnering here in the United States and on the ground in Sierra Leone, I remain optimistic that we shall succeed in raising the necessary awareness, material donations, and financial resources needed to provide assistance to our targeted area of intervention. This project is being called “PROJECT CHOLERA HELP FOR SIERRA LEONE.”

Granted, the needs of the people are many, and the challenges are enormous; therefore, we plan to focus our intervention on purchasing medication for patients afflicted with cholera that has erupted as a result of contaminated drinking water caused by the mudslide. We encourage other efforts to concentrate on other pressing areas of great need. Our proposed approach for soliciting funds and supplies will take three approaches outlined below:

CO-SPONSORS: The Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations; The United African Congress; Give Them A Hand Foundation; International Association of Applied Psychologists (a UN accredited NGO); The Black Star News; and two selected Sierra Leone Diaspora organizations, propose to work together under the leadership of the United African Congress and its partners to mobilize the resources needed to purchase and ship cholera medications to our partners on the ground in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The anticipated total number of partnership organizations will not exceed seven, including a media based entity with a history of being in business already.

HEALTHCARE PARTNER IN FREETOWN: We will seek to partner with Doctors Without Borders (MSF, Médecines Sans Frontiers), a credible world-wide healthcare delivery organization with a unique history in providing sustained and credible medical intervention services in countries around the world. MSF was present in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, when we had the pleasure of interacting with them and even inviting them to join us at the United Nations during the Ebola Concert, an event that had a standing room-only attendance of world leaders and celebrities.

SOLICITATION AND COLLECTION OF FUNDS: Our solicitation of funds would include public and private sector appeals to City, State and Federal Government, the corporate community, and individuals that have expressed an interest to provide financial assistance to our campaign. We will reach out to all parties through public service announcements, letter solicitations, and social media blasts. We hope to saturate the airways with public service announcements for support. The funds will be collected by the United African Congress under a separate account with a fund manager to keep proper records for all funds received and disbursed for the campaign.

CONCLUSION: Over the past few days, however, Sierra Leone is once again facing a new health challenge that if not contained quickly and effectively, could have a devastating impact on the innocent peoples of the Republic of Sierra Leone in general, and most specifically in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is perhaps the most densely populated region of the country. From what we are learning quickly, the Guma Valley Dam, the major supplier of water to residents in Freetown was most affected, with houses collapsing into the dam. One can only imagine the health epidemic that contaminated drinking water could bring to the residents that rely on the dam for their drinking water.

This concern for clean, healthy drinking water has motivated us to provide a laser-focused approach to our intervention to prevent cholera. With this approach, we are concentrating on raising funds to purchase cholera medication that can be shipped directly to our proposed partner NGO, Doctors Without Borders, to provide free cholera vaccines and/or medication to patients who need their services. To that end, we have sought the services of Caravan Box shippers, with a reliable and dependable ground crew in Freetown, to work with our team to quickly and safely deliver any supplies that we mobilize through our collective solicitations.

We thank you in advance for your patronage and support for people who have suffered so much for so long. May God bless you for caring and sharing.

To donate to this important cause, please direct all inquiries to:

Mr. Sidique Wai, President and National Spokesperson, United African Congress, TRS INC., 40 Exchange Place, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10005.

Telephone number contact: Ms. Ivonne M. Reid (Treasurer, United African Congress) 718-637-9703

All checks and contributions should be made payable to: UNITED AFRICAN CONGRESS, PROJECT CHOLERA 2017. Mailing Address: TRS Inc Professional Suite, 40 Exchange Place 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10005.

Sidique Wai is President and National Spokesperson

United African Congress.

 

 

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