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Sierra Leone: Government reacts to Ecowas court ruling on Ebola survivors

The Sierra Leone government says it has begun engaging survivors of the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus epidemic with the goal of addressing their concerns.A government spokesman was quoted Friday saying the administration of President Julius Maada Bio was aware of its obligation to take care of its citizens even if their concerns were the result of actions it wasn’t responsible for. Mr Jamiru was speaking in reaction to the ruling on Monday by the Abuja-based Community Court of the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS).

The court which is based in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, dismissed an application by the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) to be made a party to an earlier case filed by two individual
survivors. According to the court, SLAES is “not a juristic person,” meaning it has no legal status and therefore couldn’t take action against the government.

The original case was filed in January 2018 with the help of the civil society organization the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law. The West African Ebola epidemic, which began in neighboring Guinea in late 2013 and spread to Liberia and then Sierra Leone, eventually claimed over 11, 000 lives out of nearly 30, 000 cases across the world, with most of the deaths occurring in the three neighboring Mano River Basin countries.

While the poor state of the health systems of the West African countries were blamed for the severity of the epidemic, it’s widely believed that corruption played a part. Reports in the aftermath of the epidemic indicated that millions of US Dollars in funds directed to help fight the epidemic went into private pockets.

SLAES, which represents the 4,052 people who survived the virus, wanted to use the lawsuit to force the government to address their concerns that include livelihoods and medical complications emanating from the viral infections.

But Mr Jamiru, the deputy Information Minister, said they were aware of the group’s concerns.
When the viral epidemic broke, it was under the leadership of Ernest Bai Koroma. “Even though it is not this government that generated the state of affairs, but because we are a government, we will look into whatever the concerns Ebola survivors have and we will be willing to sit with them to sit how it happens,”

Jamiru told journalists in Freetown. He said they would find way to settle the matter out of court before next adjourn date in July. SLAES had expressed disappointment over the court’s ruling.

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