Freetown, Sierra Leone – On Saturday, November 7th, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Sierra Leone is officially ebola-free, after the outbreak initiated in May 24, 2014, leaving a total of 3,589 deaths and 8,704 people infected.
According to The Atlantic, thousands of people went out to the streets of Freetown, the country’s capital, before the announcement to celebrate among tears.
Tulip Mazumdar, from BBC, said, “There were waves of celebrations, and then silence as names of some of the dead were beamed on to a screen. Health workers, in particular, were honored for their bravery and sacrifice, they were some of the first to die when Ebola struck.”
The WHO made a special mention to the 221 healthcare workers that lost their lives due to the disease. “We remember them all today,” the WHO said on a press release. Also, they said they commend the Government and the people of Sierra Leone for the achievement.
Nevertheless, the work in Sierra Leone isn’t over. The WHO announced that they are now entering a 90 days phase of surveillance that will last until February 5, 2016. They consider this step to be crucial so they can assure that the disease has left the region, and to be able to respond to any potential flare up or future risks, as well.
On the press release, the WHO reminded the fact that this outbreak is the biggest since the virus was discovered in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country’s health system was weakened by years of war and political instability, as the virus spread among the ignorant population.
Health officials and volunteers had to walk down the streets helping people, raising awareness on the subject as well as explaining them the safety and health guidelines. This wasn’t an easy mission because the population first believed that doctors were the ones carrying the virus.
A report from Amnesty International said that the outbreak could have been caused by a rise in teenage pregnancies, by focusing on sex education and sexual violence instead on fighting the disease.
The WHO applauded the efforts of the citizens to put and end on the outbreak. The organization encourages to support these efforts to build a stronger health system that has to be able to fight further threats.
The Sierra Leonean Government, providing rapid response teams and strategies, showed its leadership to respond to the people and patient’s needs to stop the viruses transmission, as the WHO encourages them to keep up with that work.
Moreover, the WHO announced that they will maintain their presence in the African country, to help the nation through this transition, to vigilate and work to recover the essential health services.
“The Ebola outbreak has decimated families, the health system, the economy and social structures. All need to recover and heal,” the press release says.
To conclude the press release, the WHO said that they expect the Government of Sierra Leone, along with its national partners, to use the infrastructure already in place to deal with other health issues of the country, such as child mortality.
For the moment, there isn’t any known cure for Ebola, a virus that kills 60 percent of the patients when it’s detected early, and 99 percent of the patients that discover it when it’s too late. Although now the country is able to breath after more than 1 year of struggle, they are also aware of the threat of a potential resurgence of the disease.
“It’s kind of like a mixed emotion,” said Tunis Yahya, director of communications for the country’s National Ebola Response Center. “People are happy, but also many are depressed because they lost their families,” he said according to the NY Times.
Source: World Organization of Health