In 1462 Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra sailed down the West African coast. Seeing the long mountain range above the bay where Freetown stands today he called it “Lion Mountain”. Now the Leone of the Sierra lies silent.
According to the World Health Organisation, Sierra Leone has now overtaken Liberia as the country with the highest number of Ebola cases. Despite increased media attention, promises of aid, and activity on the ground, the official number of deaths in Sierra Leone is now over 2,000. The true figure is said to be much higher.
In an attempt to stop the virus spreading, the President has banned Sunday trading, restricted movement of people between districts, and prohibited most end of year celebrations.
The capital city Freetown is now a focal point. It has the greatest concentration of people and areas of extreme poverty. There are continued reports that families are hiding Ebola sufferers from the authorities through fear and ignorance. House to house searches are being undertaken to find infected people.
“Operation Western Area Surge” will encourage infected people in the high risk area to the west of Freetown to come forward. Millione has two schools in this area. Despite asking, we have had no news from them.
The last report we received was on November 21st. The schools in Kono and Bumpetoke are both closed. Social and economic activities are severely limited with restrictions on movement and gatherings. Mercifully only one person was reported to have died of Ebola, a man in Kono. Bumpetoke is a remote fishing community on the south coast. It was notably poor before Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they are managing now.
Reasons to be cheerful? Not many. Organisations like Street Child (see my last blog) and our partners ActionAid are making a real difference. The money they receive is used directly in the communities. They provide material and emotional support to those in need, often children. And they are working hard to stop the spread of the disease.
You can give to ActionAid’s Ebola campaign here. Go on, it’s Christmas.