NGO & Partner Meeting, November 13
The meeting was opened by Mr. John Bairoh (SLOF Chairman) who welcomed all participants. He showed a video depicting a pregnant young woman in distress during the height of the Ebola epidemic in January 2015 in Kono, Sierra Leone.
His Excellency Edward Turay thanked in his speech the Finnish government and Finnish NGOs for helping in the fight against Ebola virus. His Excellency pointed out that although infrastructure in Sierra Leone suffered due to the outbreak, the country will prevail as it has done before. However, Sierra Leone still needs help, and he pleaded Finland and Finnish organizations to remember this.
E. Edward Turay gave his book to Member of Parliament, Hon. Pekka Haavisto.
Furthermore, His Excellency thanked Mr. Heikki Kauppi, the President of the union of Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland, for providing premises and catering to hold also this meeting. Mr. Kauppi wished His Excellency success in his efforts also in the future.
Mr. Heikki Kauppi (President of Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland) and His Excellency Edward Turay.
Member of Parliament Hon. Pekka Haavisto, who was Minister for Development until November 2014, explained that the seriousness of the crisis was not apparent until Autumn of 2014. Therefore, the international response by e.g. WHO was delayed. Hon. Pekka Haavisto also described his impressions from his visit to Freetown, and pointed out that Finnish engineers and architects could have plenty to do in Sierra Leone. He emphasized that the Sierra Leone Diaspora needs to be active to remind Finnish people and organizations about the needs in the country, especially in this time of increasing austerity. Hon. Haavisto said SLOF has done a lot in raising awareness about Ebola and Sierra Leone’s problems. Visits also by His Excellency help to keep Sierra Leone in the minds of Finnish people. Although times may be hard in Finland, they are harder still in countries such as Sierra Leone, he concluded.
From left: His Excellency Edward Turay, Mr. Mohamed Mansaray (SLOF Executive), Hon. Pekka Haavisto, Mr. Heikki Kauppi (President, Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland) and Ms. Tellervo Ala-Lehtimäki (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Ms. Kaisa Kannuksela, who had just returned from Sierra Leone, described the response of Finnish Red Cross during the Ebola outbreak. She emphasized the vital role played by local Red Cross volunteers. Over 10 000 volunteers took part in the Red Cross efforts in combating the epidemic. The Finnish Red Cross sent money, materials (e.g. second hand clothing) and 32 professionals. This was the first time that Finnish Red Cross had taken part in the treatment of Ebola patients. Ebola clinic in Kenema has been closed but the clinic in Kono is still on stand-by.
Far left: Ms. Kaisa Kannuksela (Program Manager, Finnish Red Cross), Mr. Ibrahim Mansaray (SLOF Secretary), Mr. Nelson Mansaray. Far right: H. E. Edward Turay, Mr. Mohamed Mansary (SLOF Executive), Hon. Pekka Haavisto, Ms. Tellervo Ala-Lehtimäki (Ministry for Foreign Affairs).
Ms. Tellervo Ala-Lehtimäki (Desk Officer and Ebola Representative) explained the role Finnish Foreign Ministry played during the Ebola epidemic. She thanked NGOs, especially Red Cross and Finn Church Aid, for excellent cooperation. However, she stressed that the response by Sierra Leone government was crucial, and she said the Finnish authorities are expecting the government to keep working to improve the country. In particular, Finland would like to see efforts to improve education and the situation of women.
Mr. John Bairoh, SLOF Chairman, thanked all the partners and also the members of the Sierra Leone Diaspora in Finland and friends of Sierra Leone who took part in the SLOF Ebola Campaign. Mr. Ibrahim Mansaray (SLOF Secretary) and Mr. Nelson Mansaray also thanked all for participating in the campaign.
Hon. Pekka Haavisto greeting Mr. John Bairoh (SLOF Chairman).
John Bairoh thanked Hon Pekka Haavisto for his hard work in getting Sierra Leone to be among the Fragiles states initiative. He also thanked him for his efforts during his tenure of office when the Ebola funds were quickly released. The action by Finnish government saved lives in Sierra Leone. They were among the first to erect the Ebola clinics in the epicentre of the outbreak in Kenema and later in Kono.