Bad News! Last Ebola-Free Area in Sierra Leone Becomes Infected

F2FA November 05, 2014

Koinadugu, Sierra Leone

After four months of being Ebola-free, the Sierra Leonean district of Koinadugu has become infected with what officials are calling a “new, uncontrolled infection chain” that could be devastating to the area, reports the Guardian.

RELATED: Sierra Leonean Businessman Uses Resources & Wits To Keep His Village Ebola-Free, Making It Only Area Not Infected in Country

In October, Face2Face Africa reported on successful Sierra Leonean businessman Momoh Konte who had single-handedly devised an outreach and quarantine strategy that kept his hometown district Ebola-free.

Face2Face Africa reports:

So in June, he traveled to Koinadugu — which is the largest district of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts and has a reported population of  265,000 residents — with large drums of chlorine, face masks, thousands of rubber gloves, and a plan.

His plan involved donating 10 million Sierra Leone dollars (about $2,300) on a monthly basis to the area in order to replenish the items he initially traveled with.

The next step was getting key leaders on his page and creating a number of tasks forces.

The subsequent step — and likely one of the most critical — involved enforcing strict restrictions  on the mobility of residents outside the district.

Another integral step included engaging the community at all levels. Konte made sure neighborhood watch teams were set up in each chiefdom. He also educated community leaders heading motorcycle taxi drivers, market women, and local nonprofits, effectively passing the baton of responsibility all around.

The result was that Koinadugu became the only district in all of Sierra Leone to be Ebola-free for six months.

But after two unexplained deaths in October, it was soon realized that Ebola was an unwelcome visitor in their midst, with the chiefdom of Nieni and its three villages of Fankuya, Sumbaria, and Kumala being infiltrated.

Since then, 25 people have died and 38 more have been infected.

The head of Sierra Leone’s Red Cross team John Mara explained, “We discovered there had been 25 deaths already, some of them unexplained. Prior to this, the district went six months without Ebola. On 15 October there were two cases of unidentified deaths. The situation is not really good because we have just got the results that show there are 15 new cases, on top of 23 we already knew about.”

And now what was once a unique advantage has morphed into a negative, ““It’s about five hours’ drive to the district Kabala and then another five hours to the Nieni chiefdom. Our Toyota Land Cruiser got stuck twice yesterday on creeks and streams. Sometimes the bridge is just two logs for the right-hand and left-hand-side wheels,” a Red Cross spokesman said.

Koinadugu’s location — five hours away from Freetown — initially helped to keep it uninfected.

Ebola’s presence prompted Nieni Chief Foday Jalloh to ask for help in the containment of the virus, “Please help us, we need your help and support.”

As for the rest of Sierra Leone, Kailahun was originally the epicenter of the deadly disease, clocking in 400 new infections a week. Now that same area is down to five or 10 per week.

The Guardian reports:

An estimated 70% of infections emanate from funerals, when highly contagious corpses have been washed in a traditional manner by friends and family.

The Red Cross said education and community training about the dangers of traditional burial practices in Kailahun and Kenema, a nearby commercial hub, appeared to be paying off.

“But we need to have zero new cases for 21 days before we can say it is clear of Ebola and all it takes is one case for it to start again,” said the spokesman.

Freetown, however, hasn’t been so lucky. At press time, the capital is reportedly burying 60 bodies a day.

RELATED: CNN News Anchor Isha Sesay Angry at Media Coverage of Ebola


Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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