Ebola survivors receive food aid after quarantine

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Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone receive food aid after they are released from quarantine and try to piece their life back together. Duration: 00:56

Ebola survivors receive food aid after quarantine

Families in Ebola-hit S.Leone face long wait for freedom

Wary neighbours, police watches and food left outside the house — the lot of the families quarantined due to Ebola in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown is a mix of ostracism and excruciating boredom.

The picturesque seaside capital with its rolling hills which descend down to pristine white beaches has been hard hit by the virus, like the rest of the country, and wreaked havoc on families.

The deadliest outbreak of the virus ever has claimed nearly 5,000 lives, of which more than 1,100 deaths were recorded in Sierra Leone.

Amasoula Kagome, 19, knows the pain of Ebola only too well.

Quarantined in her modest home for 21 days — the incubation time of the virus — after her mother became the latest victim in the family, Kagome now is charged with looking after her four siblings, the youngest of whom is three.

In the span of a month, she lost her parents. Sequestered, she awaits daily for rations distributed by the UN’s World Food Programme to keep her young family going.

It includes maize, palm oil — the local cooking medium, salt pepper and wheat. Not fancy but enough to keep body and soul together.

Kagome keeps a distance from her siblings but cannot do so for the youngest.

“I can only console the youngest of my brothers, he’s only 3! I have to give him his bath. As for the others there is no contact, I (keep) a certain distance,” she said.

“Neighbours? They don’t help us , nothing … certain people are sympathizing but some are even mocking us. Yes laughing at us.”

WFP employees Janet James and Gbessay Torpoh who are one of many doing the rounds distributing rations painstakingly list the number of individuals cloistered in each house and note the cellphone of the person now heading the family. If they have one that is.

All this is done from a safe distance and they do not venture inside the homes in the working-class district of Dwarzak, set on a hillside and dotted with shanty homes with zinc or tin roofs.

A soldier and two police are on watch to ensure that nobody from the quarantined homes ventures out.

– ‘We need to scale up’ –

The temptation to do so can be overwhelming due to boredom, depression or simply to try and forage food.

WFP chief Ertharin Cousin, who visited Sierra Leone last week, said although the lacklustre international response had paced up recently, much more needed to be done in the country.

“What I have learned in Sierra Leone is that the international community has made a lot of progress in meeting the needs of the victims of this crisis,” Cousin said.

“But we all have more work to do. We need to scale up, we need to get better, we need to perform faster. We need to ensure that everyone joins together today to make the difference that is required to stop the spread of this deadly disease.”

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has also warned against observing traditional funeral rites blamed for the rapid spread of the disease.

West African burial customs and traditions like washing and touching the deceased and spending several days sitting watching over the body have been blamed for a majority of infections.

Ebola is at its most contagious stage in a person dying or who has just died of the virus, so safety procedures must be stringent, experts say.

But policing those under quarantine is not easy in a poor country, whose already shoddy infrastructure was ravaged by a brutal civil war.

“In many cases, especially in the countryside, there is no surveillance. The country simply doesn’t have the means to post policemen outside each house whose residents are quarantined,” said WFP information officer Djaounsede Pardon.

“Quarantine is ill-understood by a lot of people,” said WFP worker James. “It sparks fear in the neighbourhood and stigmatises victims.”

In an effort to halt the progress of the outbreak, the Sierra Leonean president ordered a state of emergency on July 31 and ordered the quarantining of families where the disease had reared its head.

The government also tried sequestering the worst affected areas. But the effort was in vain and Sierra Leone is the country where the virus is thought to be spreading the fastest.

In a country, where no one shakes hands any more or where any bodily contact is taboo now, quarantined families often live in close proximity with up to six people huddled in a room, said James.

Tags : Quarantine, after, food, receive, Survivors, Ebola

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