More than half of Sierra Leone’s population is under quarantine as the Ebola outbreak continues to cause deaths in the country. The outbreak has claimed more than 1,400 deaths so far, forcing the health ministry to mandate a strict lockdown for hundreds of thousands of citizens in the area.
The Tonkolili District was the latest area to be sealed shut, allowing no one to leave or enter without official papers from the local government. The country’s efforts to end the outbreak started in September and has now sealed more than one million people inside their respective homes and communities. From the northern part in Bombali to the southern district of Moyamba, residents of the 6 districts under the quarantine are currently struggling with what little support that they are being given.
— Limkokwing Uni (@Limkokwing_MY) December 3, 2014
The local government is still concerned about individuals who choose to ignore the mandated quarantine. Last week, Aminata Bangura, a fifteen year old teenager died of suspected Ebola. While the rest of her family was told to stay indoors, some members were reportedly ignoring the quarantine, choosing to go about their normal routines like running a local hairdressing business and attending the mosque.
Godfrey Kamara, a local headmaster who is now an anti-Ebola campaigner, continues to remind his community about the precautions that they need to consider. “I’ve been house to house telling them not to touch bodies, but they still do it,” he said. “It’s not working. When they’re quarantined people should stay around and have security. And they still wash the dead.”
At Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, Ebola burial teams collect about 60 deceased bodies from their daily routes. They treat every death as a suspicious case even if the person died of an accident or through natural causes. The burial teams were dispatched to collect bodies as some residents are still following traditional funeral rites, which involves washing the dead bodies. It has been reported by BBC that at least 20% of the new cases stemmed from this practice, causing the outbreak to spread further.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) December 2, 2014
Another problem lies at the lack of doctors and nurses who are working to manage the outbreak. Just last week, Dr. Komba Songu-M’briwa of the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center tested positive for Ebola. He pointed out the poor conditions of the understaffed center where he and his co-workers continued to treat and diagnose patients even with limited supplies.
The country only had about 130 doctors serving almost 6 million people. They had already lost seven doctors to the deadly outbreak leaving Dr. M’briwa praying that he gets well. “It’s not going to stop me. I am not going to relent,” he said in an interview.