On May 25, 2014, the sad awakening news erupted for the health authorities and the people of Sierra Leone. Ebola had struck in the very place everyone had been looking Koindu, Kissy Teng chiefdom, in the Kailahun district east of Sierra Leone near the border with Guinea.
Sierra Leone, which is practically between Guinea and Liberia, was officially free from the disease although there are reports of a dead victim of the virus being buried in Kono on the extreme east of the country.
According to sources, for the past several months, the Ministry of Health has trained over 360 health workers on Ebola case management.
Ebola sensitization materials have been distributed across Sierra Leone, whilst radio and TV sensitisation continued with jingles on prevention messages in all local languages, especially on community radio stations. Bulk SMS broadcasts and interest groups such as, market women, motor bike riders, traders union, religious leaders, tribal authorities, the media and civil society organizations have all been involved in the campaign against Ebola.
PCR equipment that test specifically for Ebola and 5000 Personal Protective Equipment were procured; special ambulances have been assigned to transport samples and suspects; and isolation units set up at various locations.
The Ebola Virus Disease which swept through the Mano River Union countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for SEVENTEEN MONTHS, killed about FOUR THOUSAND Sierra Leoneans.
In November 7th 2015, the W.H.O declared Sierra Leone an Ebola free nation. However, the country is still reeling from the effects of the sudden attacked. The EVD left thousands of orphaned children, youth are suffering different kinds of deformities, a struggling national economy and survivors needing massive support to rebuild their lives.
W. H. O. and the Government of Sierra Leone are still calling on people to remain vigilant as a way of keeping Ebola out of the country. The Country Representative of W.H.O, Dr. Anders Nordstrom advised Sierra Leoneans to take the necessary Ebola precautions, in order to avoid it reoccurrence as in the case of Uganda and recently Congo.
I can still remember the national calling and urging of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brima Kargbo encouraging Sierra Leoneans to be societal watchdogs by reporting compatriot and anyone with Ebola symptoms to the nearest holding or treatment centre and 117 call centers.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Centre (Rtd) Major Paolo Conteh said he took over the fight against Ebola when the country was recording thousands of cases on a monthly basis. The virus he said was spreading ferociously in communities owing to the fact that there were no proper systems in place to identify the EVD at once. He stated that the inadequate laboratory was a retarding factor during the fight against Ebola. “We will continue to collaborate with our partners even as we prepare to embark on community surveillance across the country for the next 90 days,” he added.
The Sierra Leone Police happened to be one of the institutions that the EVD severely affected. The Sierra Leone Police Training School was transformed into a treatment centre. The Commander of Police Training, Chief Superintendent of Police Moses Biango detailed how the EVD ruthlessly affected the police recruiting system in the country as he was about to train significant numbers of police officers to serve the nation, when the EVD erupted in the country.
Ebola killed Sierra Leoneans to the extent that the Kingtom Cemetery was unable to accommodate demised Ebola victims. The government relocated the Ebola burial at the Paloko Road Cemetry Waterloo.
Ebola burial volunteer Alusine Samura explained about the system of identifications of Ebola demised victims ranging from child, youths, and adults at the Paloko Road Cemetery in order for family members to identify easily their demised Ebola victims’ grave.
“One year on, we remember that a total of 8,704 Sierra Leoneans were infected during the outbreak; that we lost 3,589 of our compatriots – brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and that, among them, were 221 healthcare workers including 11 doctors. Therefore as we remember to celebrate our victory, as we continue to give thanks for those of us who have survived; we must also continue to pray for the families and friends we lost”. The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone promised to give families of deceased healthcare workers Five Thousand United States Dollars ($5,000).
Well I think people we considered as our hero and heroine families must not be treated with levity. These healthcare workers gave up their lives by answering the called of President Koroma, who said that extraordinary measures need extraordinary actions. The healthcare workers gave up everything including their right to life, just to serve the nation.
I always remember those who faithfully responded to the called of President Koroma especially the doctors, nurses, contact tracers, social mobilizers / community engagement officers, swabbers, burial teams, and all those who played their part to eradicate Ebola out of this country.