Eat.Fit.Well

Sierra Leone Ebola Zero Countdown Is On, but the Lessons Are Bitter


by Alpha K. - October 14, 2015


Alpha Kamara is broadcast journalist, blogger and freelance writer working with West Africa Democracy Radio and CanadaPharmacyOnline.com

Freetown: October 13, 2015

The second Ebola countdown in Sierra Leone has reached its second week successfully with no new case reported.

Last week end, the last quarantine village in Northern Sierra Leone, Robuya was freed and all 783 people who were put under surveillance were released after they completed their 21 days observation period.

The first Ebola zero countdown was interrupted in late august when a 69 year old in Kambia district bordering with Guinea died of the virus.

That one case produced five more Ebola positive cases dashing the country’s hopes of becoming Ebola free. The victim was accused of contracting the virus through sexual intercourse, but from who, still remains the big question.

But the authorities say, complacency will not be tolerated this time round.

According to Abdulai Bayraytay, Sierra Leone government spokesman, robust measures have been put in place to monitor the countdown process and this time round the country is ready to become Ebola free.

“All the chiefs and the district Ebola response teams have been instructed to continue with the road blocks to ensure the regular hand washing continues. Any authority found culpable of going against these by laws will be seriously dealt with" Mr. Bayraytay warned.

Staff of the Ebola burial team are a bit relieve because the number of daily burials have reduced. Photo Credit: Alpha Kamara
Staff of the Ebola burial team are a bit relieve because the number of daily burials have reduced. Photo Credit: Alpha Kamara

QUARANTINE RIGHTS ABUSES

But even as the last Ebola suspected village, Robuya has been freed from quarantine, the people of the village in the Bombali district have expressed dissatisfaction over what they called an infringement on their rights to freedom of movement for no just cause for 21 days.

The people were put on a 21 day lock down after the death of a 16 year old what was suspected of dying from the virus.

But since that test result came out, there was serious disagreement between the International Medical Corpse IMC which runs the center and the authorities of Bombali district.

“Within these 21 days, all my vegetables, pepper, fish and other items I sell have all perished. Nobody has reported any symptom of Ebola throughout these 21 days. We have just been locked for nothing" Kadiatu Samura a 45 year old trader in the village says.

Authorities have also joined the villages in raising questions on the case.

The Bombali District local council chairman John Shanghai Koroma also believes the IMC should clear the air.

“We demand an apology from the IMC for subjecting our people in an unnecessary quarantine for 21 days. We think it’s not fair and we want them to come out public" He says.

Since then, the IMC has declined to speak out on the issue.

A Family at Robuya village with smiles waiting to be released after completing their 21 days quarantine safe with no infection. Photo credit: Alpha Kamara
A Family at Robuya village with smiles waiting to be released after completing their 21 days quarantine safe with no infection. Photo credit: Alpha Kamara

The main issue that needed more clarity was how did Kadiatu contracted the virus because she has not lived outside of the village for the past one year. More so, the last Ebola patient in the village was discharge over 6 months ago.

It was suspected that she must have contracted the virus through sex with a male Ebola survivor, but this has not been substantiated.

Across the border to Guinea, the country which held its elections last week end is also in their second week of Ebola zero countdown. During the elections queing process, no Ebola regulations were observed.

This according to Karim Camara a social mobilization youth in Zerekore outside Conakry, is a potential danger to the country which is still battling with the virus.

In Liberia, authorities are now engaging in border surveillance to ensure people from across the border are screened before entering the country. They also pay close attention to sickly signs in travelers from across.

EBOLA EXITING WEST AFRICA?

The World Health Organization situational report has said, the past two weeks are the only weeks that did not record any new Ebola cases in the whole region. Even though there was panic in Calabar Nigeria where a man died of Ebola related symptoms, the test on his corpse proved negative.

But the lessons Sierra Leoneans have learnt are that, Ebola is a virus not a traditional curse as was initially believed. The medical doctors were right that corpses are very infectious. They were also right that hand washing is good in driving out even future outbreaks.

People have accepted that, Ebola will go, but their practices are very much important in making that happen.

But the huge challenge lying ahead now is, are the health structures fully in charge to respond to a future outbreak like Ebola in West Africa? How will the numerous Ebola survivors and orphans cope with life? Only time will tell.

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