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Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Exclusive Interviews | Homeland Security | MidPoint | John Caulker | Fambul Tok | Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Activist: We Need World's Help to Stop Ebola

By    |   Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:23 PM

A peace organizer in Sierra Leone who gained worldwide attention for his work with survivors of a civil war says Sierra Leoneans face a new existential threat in Ebola and cannot fight the disease on their own.

"We don't have the skills. We don't have the know-how. We depend heavily on the international community, including the military, to support us," John Caulker, executive director of the peace organization Fambul Tok, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

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Fambul Tok — Creole for "Family Talk" — was the subject and the title of a 2011 documentary film in which perpetrators of civil-war atrocities in Sierra Leone met face-to-face with their victims to confess their deeds and seek forgiveness.

The organization behind those communal peace efforts is now focused on combating Ebola.

But Caulker, speaking by Skype from the capital city of Freetown, said Sierra Leone is still recovering from the 1991-2002 civil war that "paralyzed" the west African country's governing and civic institutions, which can do little to help groups like his halt the disease's spread.

"So, certainly the government of Sierra Leone cannot handle this because they don't have the resources," said Caulker. "They don't have the manpower. They don't have the skills."

Caulker said his group's own efforts to keep the disease in check are faltering: a handful of infections have now occurred in one northern district, called Koinadugu, that had been Ebola-free.

Among the infected, he said, are Koinadugu's only healthcare worker, the healthcare worker's husband, and the porter at their small, village-based medical facility.

It's a blow for a community that had responded forcefully to early reports of the outbreak, said Caulker.

"We took the initiative to say, OK, let us be proactive to prevent Ebola from coming to the district [of Koinadugu]," said Caulker. "So, checkpoints were erected immediately, way back when the government was actually not taking any action. So, it was more of a community proactive measure . . . at an early stage to combat the disease.

"All of us became part of the process — as organizations, as community stakeholders, as tribal leaders, religious leaders. We all joined the process to make sure Koinadugu remains Ebola-free.

"Unfortunately, we've been defeated," said Caulker.

That leaves Sierra Leone in desperate need of whatever aid the U.S. and other countries can render, he said.

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Caulker said local organizers will continue to do what they can, even at great personal risk.

Caulker said that a "very close colleague," who was working in Sierra Leone's eastern Kailahun district, had just died of Ebola, and is one of numerous casualties among caregivers.

"Yes, I fear for my life," he said. "I fear for the lives of my colleagues. But what can we do? We've committed our life to support communities, to work with communities, to accommodate them, and we cannot just abandon them at this particular point in time.

"We need the support, and I am appealing to the U.S. government and the people to say, don't just issue a travel ban," said Caulker. "The world is a global village and the U.S. is the global police, so you cannot abandon your community when we need you most."

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A peace organizer in Sierra Leone who gained worldwide attention for his work with survivors of a civil war says Sierra Leoneans face a new existential threat in Ebola and cannot fight the disease on their own.
John Caulker, Fambul Tok, Sierra Leone, disease
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2014-23-21
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 06:23 PM
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