Saturday November 7, 2015
- It is official, it is
from a much sobered-up World Health Organisation. Sierra
Leone is now Ebola Virus Disease free. Time to rejoice
and a time to be even more vigilant as this viral beast
has a way of re-appearing when vigilance level is
This is a part of the World Health
that says it all. "Today, the World Health Organization
declares that Ebola virus transmission has been stopped
in Sierra Leone.
Forty-two days, that is two Ebola
virus incubation cycles, have now passed since the last
person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease had a
second negative blood test.
"Since Sierra Leone recorded the
first Ebola case in May 2014, a total number of 8,704
people were infected and 3,589 have died, 221 of them
healthcare workers, all of whom we remember on this day”
said Dr Anders Nordström, WHO Representative in Sierra
The country now enters a 90-day period
of enhanced surveillance which will run until 5 February
2016 and WHO will continue to support Sierra Leone
during this period. This new phase is critical for
ensuring early detection of any possible new cases of
Ebola virus disease. The World Health Organization
commends the Government of Sierra Leone and her people
on achieving this significant milestone in the country’s
fight against Ebola.
Sierra Leone achieved this milestone
through tremendous hard work and commitment while
battling the most unprecedented Ebola virus disease
outbreak in human history...the Ebola outbreak has
decimated families, the health system, the economy and
social structures. All need to recover. It has also left
an estimated 4,000 survivors who have ongoing health
problems who need medical care and social support."
The BBC's Tulip Mazumdar
has been in Freetown and reported on how the capital,
Freetown was getting ready for the occasion - "This is
the moment Sierra Leone has been waiting for. Thousands
of people took to the streets of the capital on the
run-up to midnight.
Women's groups came together to
organise a march through the city centre; the final
point was a 600-year-old cotton tree which sits on a
huge roundabout. Usually, the area is jammed with cars,
but last night it was packed with people.
Some held up candles, others jumped
around dancing and a military band led the procession
through the city. There were waves of celebrations, and
then silence as names of some of the dead were beamed on
to a screen.
Health workers in particular were
honoured for their bravery and sacrifice, they were some
of the first to die when Ebola struck.
Today is an enormous milestone for
Sierra Leoneans, and people are overjoyed. But this
historic moment is bittersweet."
UK Foreign Secretary Philip
Hammond observed -
"Defeating Ebola has been a long and
difficult journey and this achievement belongs first and
foremost to the people of Sierra Leone who have
demonstrated incredible resilience, bravery and
determination. In the face of lives lost and huge
sacrifices, we should remember the 221 Sierra Leonean
healthcare workers who lost their lives during this
This has also been a story of huge
personal courage demonstrated by the British healthcare
professionals, military and humanitarian workers who
demonstrated their ultimate compassion to travel to the
Ebola affected area to help tackle the disease head on.
I am proud of the role the UK
government played in galvanising a coalition of nations
who led the international response against this disease,
saving thousands of lives. Looking ahead, there is still
a long way to go.
We know that Ebola may re-emerge and
so complacency must be avoided. The UK will continue to
stand shoulder to shoulder with Sierra Leone in their
effort to build the level of resilience needed to deal
with future outbreaks and to deliver their plans for the
From the online pages of
the Guardian newspaper,
we found this -
“There are mixed emotions,” said Marto
Lado, the infectious diseases consultant at the
Connaught hospital in Freetown. “Everyone is
celebrating, but the truth is I’m surprised at the
normality of everything.
On Friday people came to work and were
talking about it, but not in an excited way. It’s more
of a relief, people thinking: ‘Oh, my God, I can’t
believe we have got here.’ It has taken so long for this
weekend to arrive. There is still a lot of anxiety about
what might happen. There is still Ebola in Guinea and we
know it is not over yet.”
Many of the health workers who died were infected
because of inadequate protective equipment and training.
“They died so we could live,” Fatmata, a university
student, said with tears in her eyes.
Ebola survivors and the bereaved, who include an
estimated 12,000 orphans, were subdued. The country’s
first confirmed Ebola survivor, Victoria Yillia, told
the crowd she was “happy that this disease which almost
killed me has finally ended”. She appealed to
authorities not to forget survivors, many of whom have
faced social stigma and persistent health problems.
Dauda Fullah, 25, an Ebola survivor who lost five
members of his family, said there would be street
carnivals all day in the city of Kenema. “We are happy
that this day has come, but we are not rejoicing,
because we have felt the destruction to our lives,” he
said. “The only thing I am doing is taking my family and
saying a prayer for my parents and brothers and sisters
Mohamed Kamara, 23, who lost three members of his family
and whose 19-year-old wife Aminata lost six of hers,
said: “I feel really happy about today. I’m sad for the
family that I lost, but I am happy for the end of Ebola.
I pray that we don’t ever have this sickness in our
Syerramia Willoughby, the daughter of Victor Willoughby,
the country’s most senior doctor to have been killed by
Ebola, said: “The sadness stays with you for a long
time. It’s really good to see Ebola has retreated, but
my concern is that we will have more cases because it is
not yet eliminated in Guinea.”
Indeed and all the reason why care
must be taken lest we allow our collective joy to lower
We join all true and patriotic Sierra Leoneans and
friends of Sierra Leone in celebrating the good news
that at last we have gone forty two days with no new
infection and hence worthy to be called Ebola-free.
Congratulations to all those who
worked tirelessly to make this day a reality with
prayers that those who became rich over the misery of
those affected will one day pay for their callous
attitude at a time when communities were being wiped out
as the ravaging silent killer deceived its way into
areas that were believed to be free of Ebola thus laying
waste more precious lives.
It is heartening to hear about
celebrations in the capital Freetown and in other parts
of the country where the beast has been making people
almost give up hope that we would defeat the viral
enemy. It is also heartening to hear that the names of
all those health workers who lost their lives in the
battle against the Ebola Virus Disease were hailed in
Tributes must be paid to the health
care related workers who also succumbed to the ravages
of a disease they had never encountered, did not know
about and which was so deceptive that many names were
given to its manifestations - except Ebola Virus
These are the porters, cleaners,
drivers, cooks and hospital and ward aides who did their
best to contain a baffling situation.
We should also recognise the
contribution of those whose relations were snatched away
into eternity and who never gave up hope that one fine
day, this new peril will be a thing of the past.
We pray that a fitting memorial will
be erected in all areas of the country where more than
three and half thousand people of all ages and gender
lost their lives as they were consumed by the disease in
a country where the health delivery system was broken
almost beyond repair and where those in authority were
as inept as could be found.
They refused to listen to the voices
of journalists who first warned of the entry of the
disease from neighbouring Guinea.
The ensuing 90-day enhanced
surveillance period should be one of total vigilance and
must be a period that should see the near-decrepit
health delivery system brought to scratch with the
process devoid of money-making ventures that had made
millionaires out of the misery and death of Sierra
Now is the time to put in place the
right people, the right measures and the right attitude
for given the history of the Ebola Virus Disease, we
should not be surprised to hear reports of it
resurfacing and creating further havoc.
All must be done to stop this
happening and hence the call for vigilance at all times.
The stories of the Ebola Virus Disease
are all too vivid, too painful to recall and if those in
authority really care about bringing the disease under
control for good rather than what money is there to be
made for the pockets of self, friends and family members
must now put in place all the structures and
institutions that would stop the enemy at the gates.
The Ebola Virus Disease, if it dares
to make a second coming should not be so devastating
given our experiences.
It is indeed a fact that if lessons
have been gleaned from the terrible experiences of the
past, then Sierra Leone should be in a better position
to combat the disease when it makes the much-predicted
return and as the outbreak was dealt with in Nigeria, so
too must we be prepared for it by having an effective
tracing and treatment regime in place.
The worries of many Sierra Leoneans
however is that given the manner in which contracts were
awarded that saw unscrupulous and wicked people with
close links to the rat became millionaires at the
expense of the dead, infected, afflicted and affected,
the concerns of the MSF Country Representative Jacob
Maikere must be taken seriously. He is worried that the
necessary protocols would not be maintained and that the
broken health delivery system would not be fixed.
And among those who were around to
listen to the smoke and mirrors rat of a president was
his new money-maker, Transport and Communication mafia
don who would think nothing of getting Sierra Leone
indebted in projects that would line his pockets and
swell his bank accounts as would those of his
master - the rat at State House. Don't be surprised to
hear him come up with a project involving investing in a
patch of land on the moon a la China!!!
They are now waiting for the
post-Ebola funds to start trickling in for their fangs
to bite in deep.
Even as we rejoice and give thanks to
the Good Lord that our many prayers have been answered
let us not forget the health troubles and economic
difficulties affecting the Ebola Virus Disease
Every support must be given to them as
health experts try to unravel the impact of the disease
on those it could not kill.