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Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone


From the muted media response one could be forgiven for thinking operations in Sierra Leone had ceased, Ebola was conquered and everyone was back home with tea and medals.

The general direction of Ebola control is good; new cases are declining, free movement restored over a month ago and plans firmly in place for getting back to normal for schools and other public services.

World Health organisation - Ebola
World Health organisation – Ebola

A non scientific survey of the local media shows Ebola is just one story amongst many, the usual diet of corruption, female genital mutilation and arms trafficking now back in their usual place. There has been a short term spike in infections and subsequent quarantine in Freetown near the neighborhood of Aberdeen which has hit the headlines because that is near a relatively wealthy part of town where high end and oft frequented by foreigners hotels and restaurants are located.

The recently released Report on the Audit of the Management of the Ebola Funds from the Sierra Leone Audit Service states that 30% of Ebola funds, not including those provided by external governments and agencies, cannot be accounted for. Reuters reports that some payments to workers on the Ebola response effort have been ceased to allow thousands of ‘ghost workers’ to be removed.  IRIN reports that in the midst the Ebola outbreak a significant increase in teenage pregnancy and sexual assaults has occurred. Finally, Salone Post reports that some Ebola survivors are suffering from erectile dysfunction.

And this is the problem with reporting the good news of the three services involved with the relief effort, for every story about Reservists sending toys for children there is a negative or sensationalist story from in Sierra Leone to knock it off the agenda.

Whatever the local news, service personnel and civilians in Sierra Leone, and those providing support from the UK have done a bloody sterling job, much deserved of praise and plaudits for bravery. Reading the numerous local media, one gets the impression of the response being both an international effort and one that Sierra Leone nationals have participated in fully, helpless they are not.







The task continues…

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6 Responses

  1. Out of all the conflicts we have sent people to serve in , and this was a war on a terrible disease that in is mercilessness’ makes ISIS look like choir boys , everybody was on the front line facing an invisible deadly enemy and no amount of praise can reward the bravery of these souls. I suspect it was an ALL volunteer mission so even more deserved.
    on the subject of the other happenings fear drives strange behaviours and as its Africa there is all ways corruption , the 30% figure is a good result in those parts.
    Hopefully the WHO and other bodies can learn from these tragic events that shocked everyone in its spread and virulence and preventative measures can drawn up for the inevitable next time . The message in fast , in hard and out quick (hopefully) is never more appropriate. If the various local and international bodies had got a handle on this sooner I am sure a lot less suffering would have occurred , hindsight is a great gift so use it.

  2. It’s looking better. Very pleased the british nurses who got this fully recovered. All the individuals who went out there were incredibly brave.

    Its sad that basic public health is so bad for many people in the world that they are at such high risk of outbreaks. We forget how lucky we are, a few generations in a select number of nations who have had the privilege of knowing that barring a rare catastrophe we will see all our child grow up.

  3. I salute the men and women of the British Armed Forces. Once again they have demonstrated to the people, myself included, that they represent all that is good about our nation. I hope that the politicians remember these efforts.

    However, forgive me for being a cynic, but the only reason the politicians acted was because of the media frenzy – specifically the ambulance-chasing BBC, with its keystone-cop morality™ – which has moved on to the next disaster/crisis/[fill gap with applicable]

    I challenge the SDSR to recognise that this types of disease outbreak represents a threat to national security and that upstream engagement has to be provided for and resourced. That will mean two suitable replacements for RFA Argus, a further 3 C-17s to provide a dedicated flight for humanitarian assistance , and whatever kit that the is deemed necessary by those who know best, and all paid for from from the international aid budget.

  4. @PJS

    Agree that microbes present a national defence risk. I’m afraid simple solutions like hospital ships and tons of great looking PPI are not the answer ( the words pissing into the wind or spitting in the fire come to mind).
    If you look at Ebola, you have to remember that although it’s a beast if you get it ( average fatality rate 50% for this outbreak) from an out break point of views it’s in the easy to control range, small number of cases, easy to prevent transmission, the the extent that against good public health it would not stand a chance (even subsaharan standards have controlled all other outbreaks) but controlling it in environments with poor public health was very difficult and expensive when it was allowed to get out of hand.

  5. If you look at the Spanish flu which went pandemic due to a total collapse in public health in France post WW1 and the fact that early 20th century public health was less than optimal even in rich nations.It had a fatality rate of around about 10% ( far lower than Ebola) but it overcame the public health systems of the time and probably killed up to 3 to 6 % of the world population ( 100milion ish). No amount of hospital ships or pre stored equipment could effect the outcome of this type of event. The only chance you have is that you public health systems can prevent 1) the first initial outbreak 2) prevent an outbreak turning into an epidemic or 3) the systems around the epidemic can prevent it becoming a pandemic, at which point it wll roll over whatever public health and healthcare systems you have.

    From a pandemic point of view we are only as strong as the weakest links in the chain. You can see this in how Seasonal Flu strains work,they start in areas of poor public health ( South East Asia) and propagate across the planet.

    I’m a great believer that out entire aid budget should be focused on improving public health in the week links ( enlightened self interest).

    My plan would be support:
    1) international stewardship of antimicrobials, any nation that does not follow this puts humanity at risk.
    2) clean water supplies for all populations
    3) food security and correct animal husbandry ( good separation of farm anamials from populations)
    4) education for all on hygiene and infection control
    5) work to get reasonable levels of housing and sanitation
    6) appropriate basic healthcare systems ( good primary care)

  6. One must praise HM Gov for being able to conduct ‘war’ on Ebola at the same time as fighting wars on drugs, poverty, obesity, corruption, not to mention actual conflicts currently being pursued. I thought HM Armed Forces could conduct a single medium scale war for any period?

    Can we describe it for what it is? A humanitarian effort, aimed at stopping the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and associated eradication plans. Enough of the ‘war on’ pre-suffix.

    What was the benefit too (other than saving lives and a good bit of initial PR)? Play-test field hospital set-ups for disease eradication processes? What do we get back from Sierra Leone? Trade? Contracts? Reverse the influence the recent $3bn investment by China will have?

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