Sierra Leone after Ebola

Sierra Leone: A poster urging people not to stigmatize survivors. of

Sierra Leone: A poster urging people not to stigmatize Ebola survivors.

From Saturday, August 8, 2015, Sierra Leone is officially Ebola free. But memories of the disease and the devastation it caused are still fresh. The country will have to deal with the consequences for many years. This report by German Radio (DW).

“Has anyone in your village died from Ebola? Have you had contact with a sick person?” These are everyday questions in Sierra Leone. They are part of the routine for anyone wanting to enter a hospital. Staff are expected to fill out a questionnaire and measure every visitor’s temperature. The aim is to identify as early as possible anyone suffering from Ebola.

The disease caused havoc in Sierra Leone – a country with a population of six million. There were more than 14,000 suspected cases and the official death toll is put at 3,589, although the true figure is probably much higher. For 42 days no more new infections have been registered – which means that on August 8, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) can officially declare Sierra Leone to be Ebola free. Of the three West African countries worst hit by Ebola, Sierra Leone had the second highest number of cases, after Liberia.

Patrick Turay, medical doctor at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni, the largest city the Northern Province, sees no reason to rejoice over Sierra Leone’s Ebola free status. “We still haven’t got our priorities right,” he told DW. “We need to overhaul our healthcare delivery system.” Any fresh infection could have devastating consequences, he warned.

Since 2014, the country has undergone the painful experience of learning just how important a good health system is for rural areas. Someone who knows this only too well is Momoh Sesay, a tall, serious young man. When he talks about Ebola, he tries to sound detached as possible. “First, my mother suffered from headaches. Then she started vomiting. We took her to the hospital. She received treatment. But she died,” he said.

A friend who was in the same hospital and survived broke the news to Momoh by phone, the only way of maintaining contact with the outside world. Momoh’s village of Manoh was hardly hit and was put under quarantine. Neither he nor his siblings were able to say goodbye to their mother. There’s no grave.

Grieve is mixed with fear of what the future may bring. The children are now orphans and have no income. The do have an uncle and aunt who help them occasionally. Today, many thousands of children are growing up without parents.

 

Filed in: Mano River Review

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