Ebola victims sue Sierra Leone government for mismanaging contingency funds

December 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm | News

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

December 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm | News

Sierra Leonean health workers burying a victim of Ebola. Photo credit: BBC

Two Sierra Leonean victims of the deadly Ebola virus have taken their government to court for mismanaging funds set aside to deal with the epidemic between 2013 and 2016.

The two filed a case with the ECOWAS court, which is based in Nigeria, on Friday accusing the government of Sierra Leone of denying its citizens the rights to life and health.

When the plague broke out in Sierra Leone and three other West African countries in 2013, foreign governments and private donors donated millions of dollars in an effort to stop its spread.

But unfortunately, a huge chunk of the money is alleged to have been pocketed by a few corrupt government officials for their own private projects.

In the lawsuit, the petitioners, both of whom got infected with the Ebola virus while working as health workers in Sierra Leone, accused the government of not providing them with adequate resources, leading to their infection and deaths of thousands of victims.

It is estimated that over 3,000 people in Sierra Leone died from the Ebola virus, 250 of whom were health workers.

“Sierra Leoneans have repeatedly demanded accountability and justice for the mismanagement of Ebola response funds, but their demands have fallen on deaf ears,” Ibrahim Tommy of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, which is helping the two petitioners with the case, told Reuters on Friday.

Although Sierra Leone’s Attorney General, Joseph Kamara, insists that the government has not been formally notified about the suit, the Sierra Leonean government could soon be forced to pay financial and non-financial compensation to the victims of Ebola if the court upholds the claims.

“We want to know what happened with the money. We are very much interested to give our own support, so that all those that were actors in the fight will be held responsible,” said the head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola survivors association, Yusuf Kabbah.

A public audit done in 2015 revealed that close to a third of the money allocated to fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone for a period of six months could not be fully accounted for. The audit also revealed that if the available resources were utilized properly, more lives could have been saved.

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