Working through their umbrella body, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the journalists converged under the cotton tree in the morning wearing yellow t-shirts and yellow ribbons pinned on their crests, for a symbolic wrapping around the historical tree of a yellow cloth, followed by brief statements from the SLAJ President, Kelvin Lewis; the Mayor of Freetown His worship Franklyn Bode Gibson; The head of UNMEER Amadu Kamara; the CEO of NERC Rtd Major Paolo Conteh; and Presidential Adviser Prof. Monty Jones on behalf of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.
The ceremony was replicated in the regional headquarter towns by SLAJ provincial executives.
The campaign is expected to take over radio stations, newspapers and social media by storm as SLAJ calls on all Sierra Leoneans, organizations and business houses to re-commit to the fight against the EVD.
“You don’t have to be a journalist to follow the Yellow Ribbon campaign,” said Kelvin Lewis.
“The Yellow Ribbon campaign is to remind everyone that the EVD is still with us and we must not be complacent, but fight it to the last.”
According to Lewis, the Yellow Ribbon signifies commitment to uphold four key principles to end Ebola in the country: bury dead bodies safely; keep sick people away from others; speak out if you know of a sick person; and ensuring ‘contacts’ stay quarantine with food and water.
The Yellow Ribbon campaign comes in the wake of new confirmed and suspected cases at the coastal Aberdeen area in the capital Freetown, with over 700 houses quarantined. The incident has instilled panic in Sierra Leoneans as well as the hotel and airline industries.
“The upsurge in Aberdeen is a testimony to the fact that the last few meters in a race are the hardest,” said Lewis. “We should not panic. It is our hope that this campaign will inject new energy into the fight against Ebola, and not to be complacent.”
Anyone who displays the Yellow Ribbon, said Lewis, is demonstrating renewed commitment to the fight against Ebola.
The journalists chose the colour Yellow because it is ‘bright, unique, attractive, a symbol of good causes globally and above all less political’.
Beyond all that, Lewis said the Yellow Ribbon signals a new dawn and the start of the rebranding of Sierra Leone.
His Worship Mayor Gibson said the Yellow Ribbon also urges Sierra Leoneans to be committed to all national causes, not just the fight against Ebola.
“I’m happy SLAJ is now pledging their love and loyalty to their country,” said Mayor Gibson.
Head of UNMEER, the umbrella organization for all UN agencies in the country, Amadu Kamara, hailed SLAJ for the Yellow Ribbon campaign and challenged Sierra Leoneans to ensure Ebola is defeated before the rains resume.
“We have to beat the rains because it comes with its own problems,” he said, adding that the Ebola fight is a sub-regional one and that Sierra Leone can only rest when its neighbours are also free of the disease.
The CEO of NERC, Rtd Major Paolo Conteh, describes the initiative by SLAJ as timely.
“This campaign comes at the right time as our people have become complacent as a result of the low cases recorded recently,” he said.
The Defence Minister gave the analogy of a 400 meters race which becomes difficult at the final stages, and appealed to the public to finish the race by all means.
Representing President Koroma and officially launching the Yellow Ribbon campaign, Prof Monty Jones said the recent surge in Ebola cases at Aberdeen could be attributed to tiredness, stubbornness and disobedience of the laws against Ebola.
“There are no more buckets around, complacency is creeping in. We should bring back the buckets and the thermometers in all offices and public places,” Prof. Jones urged.
Prof Jones said President Ernest Bai Koroma is more than committed to eradicate Ebola out of Sierra Leone and the sub-region.
The President reportedly travelled to Guinea over the weekend for a sub-regional meeting on the EVD.