NEW YORK – The Executive Director of Caritas Freetown, Sierra Leone, Rev. Fr. Peter Alpha Konteh, has urged and continues to appeal to Africans living at home in their respective countries to join forces in protecting the continent from the spread of Coronavirus known as COVID-19.
A diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Freetown and director of the Archdiocese of Freetown Development Office, Father Konteh said African nations, especially Sierra Leone and neighboring countries Liberia and Guinea, which witnessed the impact of the deadly Ebola virus between 2014 – 2015 must be extremely vigilant.
He said while there are no significant recorded cases of the virus in Sierra Leone, all Sierra Leoneans have a duty to ensure that the situation stays that way.
“This zero case situation can only be continuously achieved if people adhere to the dictates of the government, through the Ministry of Health and that of the World Health Organization. I, therefore, encourage all Sierra Leoneans to stop peddling false news designed to create panic and call on all citizens and residents in the country to put aside all political differences and come together to fight this disease.”
The community development and economic empowerment oriented prelate further stated that nothing would be gained by anyone in Sierra Leone who tries to score political capital out of this ongoing global healthcare crisis. Adding, “This disease is not about politics, and if it hits the country, there might be untold hardship on the country apart from the health implications of the disease.”
“As a part of the global community, Sierra Leone is going to be affected economically, even though the country has not recorded any known cause. The global devastation would exacerbate the plight of the people of Sierra Leone and all good development plans of government development.”
A diocesan Catholic priest internationally respected for his work in human security and community development work, Father Konteh appealed for a change of attitude amongst Sierra Leoneans. Noting, “It is the common attitude of many of our people to glorify negative things than the positive ones. People do not appreciate good things and most often politicize everything. It is not the time for politics.”
Father Konteh said for the past several years, and as a result of the past war, Sierra Leone was known for negative things, with many international indices rating the country far down the list. Thank God we as a people and country are bouncing back, and we can do more and achieve more if we work together as one people.
“At this time in our history, all Sierra Leonean citizens should be proud that the country is among the few countries in the world that have not recorded severe or multiple cases of the virus.”
Father Konteh said Sierra Leoneans are beautiful and gracious people whose sense of hospitality is magnanimous. However, he said cautions all Sierra Leoneans should exercise caution at this time since no one knows the health status of other people who may be visiting the country through the borders, regardless of whatever relationship.
Father Konteh also called on Sierra Leoneans at home to be in solidarity with their family and other relatives abroad in the United States, Europe, and Canada, where cases of the COVID 19 are on the rise daily.
“This is not the time for family members back home in Sierra Leone to ask for remittances or money from their relatives and friends abroad,” he said. He said this is necessary, especially in these difficult times when businesses and other institutions that employ these people in these western countries are either closed or on lockdown, he said.
He said he is fully aware that Sierra Leonean relatives and friends abroad make a significant contribution to the country and its economy through the regular remittances they sent home every month to their family members.
Father Konteh acknowledged that many families in Sierra Leone depend on remittances to sustain their lives if these remittances are not forthcoming because of the ongoing global health pandemic, the survival of some families would be at stake.
Sierra Leonean abroad remits millions of dollars back home to assist and sustain family members, including supporting the education and health care needs of many children in individual families. Remittances are the money sent home by people who work in a foreign country such as the United States, Canada, and those in Europe. The latest value of remittances to Sierra Leone from 2018 is 58.42 million U.S. dollars per year.
Remittances are an essential aspect of the global economy, totaling an estimated $601 billion (USD) for the year 2015. According to the Pew Research, $148,489,000,000 in remittances was sent from the United States to other countries in 2017. Remittance flowed worldwide in 2017.
Father Konteh also praised Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio and the Sierra Leone government’s efforts in focusing on promoting national unity and development nationwide. He said Caritas Freetown is always willing to collaborate with various government agencies to facilitate job creation, workforce development, food security, health care services, and community development, including women empowerment.