We must listen to witnesses on the ground who are seeing abuse, duplicity, and the dereliction of duty firsthand. Our lives depend on their voices being heard. The op-ed by Sean Thomas, International Director of Investigations at Animal Equality.
Sierra Leone dances to the rhythm of the news that it is Ebola free
Ebola in Sierra Leone is no more, the World Health Organisation announced on the 7th of November. How was the news celebrated in the country? By dancing of course.
Sierra Leone is an Ebola-free zone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) made the announcement on the 7th of November, 42 days since the last person was tested positive for the disease. The Sierra Leone based Social Mobilisation Action Consortium (SMAC), which works to fight Ebola through community engagement, celebrated the news by posting a video that has been trending all over social media. Bye Bye Ebola brings together those affected by and working to fight the virus dancing to the beats of a cover of Fuse ODG featuring Itz Tiffany’s hit Azonto. The Ebola-inspired version of the popular Ghanaian song is by Block Jones featuring Freetown Uncut.
It isn’t the first time that the West African fight against Ebola has been told through music. As well as the 2014 reworking of Bob Geldof’s 1984 hit Do They Know It’s Christmas? to highlight the Ebola epidemic, criticised for perpetuating negative stereotypes of Africa, some of the continent’s most famed musicians came together to record the song Africa Stop Ebola, released in October 2014.
The virus tore through West Africa in 2014 and early 2015. It killed over 11,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In Sierra Leone alone over 8,700 people were affected, of which almost half died, since May 2014. The WHO explains that the diffusion of the virus in West Africa was facilitated by the fact that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had never experienced such an aggressive outbreak. These countries, amongst the poorest in the world and having recently emerged from years of civil war, found themselves unprepared in all stages of containment of the disease, from early detection to treatment and prevention.
Sierra Leone saw a peak in outbreaks in September and October 2014: its government and international partners including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the UK and US governments and the WHO orchestrated a coordinated response in collaboration with local communities. Treatment facilities as well as safe and dignified burial conditions were set up. West African funerary practices were identified as an important cause behind the rapid spread of the virus, leading to 80% of cases in Sierra Leone according to the WHO.
In May the WHO had already announced that Liberia was Ebola-free and a holistic response has also stemmed the epidemic in Sierra Leone, though MSF points out that the country’s neighbour Guinea continues experiencing new cases. “Sierra Leone achieved this milestone through tremendous hard work and commitment while battling the most unprecedented Ebola virus disease outbreak in human history,” the WHO commented. The country now enters a 90-day period in which the situation will continue to be closely monitored.
In freeing tself of Ebola, a potentially fatal disease that causes sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and even internal and external bleeding, Sierra Leone has built the awareness and health facilities that will allow it to tackle future outbreaks. As pointed out by SMAC’s social mobilisation campaign, “Community Get Di Power For Tap Ebola“, community has the power to tap Ebola. And what better way to celebrate that than to just dance.
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