Ebola centers in Sierra Leone are reportedly overflowed since yesterday, Wednesday, 17th December 2014 as health workers combed the streets of the capital Freetown for patients, after the government launched a major operation to contain the epidemic the country.
As a result of the alarming situation on the ground, President Ernest Bai Koroma has among other things, stated on the State television (SLBC) that travel between all parts of the country had been restricted and business houses ordered to close down at 6pm Mondays through Friday effective yesterday, businesses to be closed at 2 pm on Saturdays and no Sunday trading. Public gatherings would be strictly controlled in the run-up to Christmas; all as part of “Operation Western Area Surg.”
Just yesterday at Devil Hole in the outskirt of the capital Ebola surveillance officers questioned one Ibrahim Kamara as he sat in a discarded vehicle tire, his eyes glassy and his breath coming in gasps.
“Is the body weak?” a surveillance officer shouted. Kamara, 31, nodded despondently while onlookers gathered round.
“Vomiting?” the officer asked. Kamara nodded again.
Kamara’s wife, Adama, said a neighbor had died on Saturday from Ebola-like symptoms. When they had tried to take a taxi to hospital, the driver made them get out when he discovered her husband was ill.
The surveillance officers wrote down the Kamaras’ address and the names of five family members in their household, before calling an ambulance.
The ambulance meant to collect Kamara took three hours to arrive in Devil Hole, where he had already been waiting for six hours on the street. A nurse in the ambulance said some holding centers were already full as a result of the surge.
When the ambulance drove away, Kamara left behind a red blanket. It was immediately sprayed with disinfectant by the Ebola response team while his wife watched expressionless.
Such street-by-street searches form a key part of a month-long push by the government, a British task force and international groups in the populous west of Sierra Leone, where the epidemic is raging. Their aim is to score a breakthrough against the disease within four to six weeks.
Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are at the heart of the world’s worst recorded outbreak of Ebola. Rates of infection are rising fastest in Sierra Leone, which now accounts for more than half of the 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus.
Shortages of resources, strikes by unpaid healthcare workers and logistical challenges have dogged the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.
At the King Tom Cemetary in Freetown, weary grave diggers clothed head to foot in protective waterproof yellow clothing said that they had buried 51 people on Wednesday alone.
With the cemetery already full, burial teams have expanded the site to a former rubbish dump, angering some bereaved families. Syringes and rusting iron lay in empty graves, while the burial teams had to throw stones at pigs roaming among the rubbish to keep them away from the dead.
Health officials are alarmed by the widespread transmission in Freetown, similar to an eruption of Ebola in the Liberian capital Monrovia in August which is only now being brought under control.