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Update: Since this blog was written, five new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Sierra Leone.
By Joanne O’Flannagan, Trócaire’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Sierra Leone
Is Sierra Leone on the verge of being declared Ebola-free?
With no new cases having been reported in a week, hopes are high that the country has finally consigned Ebola to its past. However, in order to be officially declared Ebola-free a country must go 42 consecutive days without a new infection so Sierra Leone has a long way to go before the nightmare of Ebola can be declared to be over.
People here are still haunted by the dark months when Ebola moved from house to house; a silent and invisible killer that left over 10,000 people across West Africa dead.
Even if Ebola finally has been defeated, people in Sierra Leone face enormous challenges over the coming months.
The restrictions on movement during the height of the Ebola crisis meant that many farmers were unable to plant their crops. In the towns and cities, thousands of people lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.
People are planting now and the rains are due to come over the coming weeks. However, it will be August before those crops can be harvested and many people face a summer of hunger. June and July will be very lean months in Sierra Leone and people here will need support to get through the summer until the fresh harvest.
Trócaire is supporting programmes in affected communities to provide people in an income to help them get over the summer months. By operating ‘cash-for-work’ schemes in these communities, people will earn money that will allow them to purchase food at local markets while they are waiting for their own harvests.
People from the village of Rothomgboi who are taking part in Trócaire’s project aimed at tackling hunger during the summer months (Photo: Joanne O’Flannagan / Trócaire)
The months ahead will not be easy for the people of Sierra Leone. The darkest days of this crisis are hopefully at an end but it will be quite some time before normality is restored.
Even prior to the outbreak of Ebola, Sierra Leone was one of the poorest countries in the world. The decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002, decimated the country. Sierra Leone had made enormous strides since the end of that conflict but Ebola has knocked the country back.
People here are all praying that they will reach the magic number of 42 days without a new infection. That day will be a very joyous one and will be a major step on the road to recovery.
But that road will be a long one, and people here will need continued support along it.
This crisis is far from over.
Trócaire is working with local partners in Sierra Leone to help overcome hunger this summer. Please support our work by contributing to our Ebola fund.