Quarantines in Sierra Leone risk spreading Ebola further

By Oxfam

Restrictions on communities are causing unnecessary hardship to families.

“Ebola doesn’t discriminate,” says Oxfam public health promoter Mabinty Koroma in the video above as she scans a densely populated section of Sierra Leone’s Freetown where many families are now quarantined.

But those forced to live under quarantine are finding themselves discriminated against, and Oxfam is concerned that efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus through the poorly implemented isolation of communities in this country are causing families unnecessary hardship. Further, the initiative actually risks spreading the disease further.

Six out of 14 of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts have now endured quarantine measures.

“Quarantine is very difficult,” says Patrick Kamara, a 43-year-old police officer in Susan’s Bay, a quarantined area in the center of Freetown. “We don’t have any water to drink in our houses. We also need it to cook. We used to have breakfast in the morning, but now we have no provisions.”

Nor can people easily get them.

“Whenever people go to buy these things, they refuse us,” says Kamara.” They say this is Ebola money. You are Ebola people. We are badly stigmatized.”

Oxfam has been distributing hygiene kits to families in quarantined zones where people are reporting that lack of food, water, and essential services is forcing them to cross the lines.

“Quarantines must be seen as a last resort,” says Thynn Thynn Hlaing, Oxfam’s country director in Sierra Leone, one of the West African nations with widespread transmission of the disease. As of December 9, Sierra Leone had 7,798 cases with 1,742 deaths.

“Poorly implemented quarantines make life harder on communities who, in many cases, are already poor, marginalized, and vulnerable,” adds Hlang.” The danger is that people will try and avoid quarantines, and there will be a knock-on effect with people under-reporting infections and deaths, or trying to care for Ebola victims at home, thereby furthering the spread of the killer disease.“

We are calling on the government of Sierra Leone and UN agencies to guarantee that people’s basic needs are met during the quarantines.

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