17 Oct 2014

Ebola hits Sierra Leone’s last unaffected district

Koinadugu, in Sierra Leone, had been the country’s one area without Ebola – until yesterday. But as John F Sillah reports, locals are resolved to regain the district’s status as an Ebola-free zone.

Anti-Ebola worker in Sierra Leone (Reuters)

Two people died yesterday of Ebola in Koinadugu district, my region in the north of Sierra Leone, which had been fighting to retain its status as the last of the country’s 14 districts to stave off the Ebola virus, writes John F Sillah, a reporter for On Our Radar based in Kabala, Koinadugu.

Mariama Jalloh, a local resident resident, explained: “There is panic in Koinadugu right now… The Nieni chiefdom has been placed under quarantine. I lost my aunt yesterday… They said she was positive with Ebola and now we have lost her. My heart is broken. I don’t know what to do.”

Traffic in the region is very hard to control as there are so many roads coming in and out, and a river that brings many tradesmen.

The spread of Ebola to my region is worrying and tragic, though perhaps inevitable. Despite the many safety precautions we have taken and the best efforts of the health workers, traffic in the region is very hard to control as there are so many roads coming in and out of Koinadugu, and a river that brings many tradesmen and their goods in and out of the region.

Furthermore, whilst schools have remained closed and business has slowed down a lot since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak, many people in the region are hungry and desperate, so have had no choice but to continue to travel for trade.

Business as usual

In Kabala, the capital of Koinadugu district, business is continuing as usual despite the the acute sense of concern. Amadu Bah told me that “people in Kabala are out doing their business but we are so worried… We are in trouble now… Everybody is praying for survival… The disabled people are the most in danger due to the quarantine because they are the most vulnerable.”

Ebola was transmitted to the district by an infected man who is believed to have travelled from the Kono district in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. Rumours are spreading that the man had visited Kono to attend a burial, thinking that the ceremony was to commemorate the life of a victim of cholera.

Cholera is a common problem and the symptoms are similar to those of Ebola, which has caused confusion.

Cholera is a common problem in the region and the symptoms are similar to those of Ebola, which has caused confusion in communities who are trying to identify Ebola victims.

Many people are hungry, and we are all extremely worried that Ebola has started taking lives in our district. But we are determined to fight to win back our status as an Ebola-free district as soon as possible.

John F Sillah reports for On Our Radar

Follow @onourradar on Twitter