A strange choice for the title of this post, perhaps? The reason? Well, things in Sierra Leone are on the up. The fightback has begun in earnest. Optimism is in the air. Optimism is in this post. The tipping point for Ebola is behind us. The dark days have gone. Later...
A neighbour comes out of his metal gate with a huge tray of freshly baked bread rolls. Smells really good. He carries it effortlessly on his head. We exchange greetings.
A good sized group of street cleaners are out sweeping with home-made brushes. The type where you bend right over. My back is sore watching them. They see me a lot. We exchange greetings.
I jog slowly down The Maze and along the Old Railway Line. Turn right, move downhill on King St. Heading north. Steep descent. Not yet 0630 hrs, people everywhere beginning the daily pattern of life. Only a few cars. Most folk moving on foot. Early morning jobs to be done. People heading to collect water from the standpoint halfway down King St. Every type of container imaginable. All very colourful. Mostly, children, this is their job. You need to be up early. As they say; you snooze… you lose.
Time to push on up Signal Hill. Steep. I see tremendous views of the Atlantic Ocean. As I climb, and over my right shoulder, there’s RFA Argus. The Royal Navy ship supporting the Ebola crisis. Looks good proudly anchored up in the bay. 0630 hrs. Knowing the senior service as I do, these Jolly Jacks have another 3 hours in their bunks. On my left, the local hotel. Not sure what Trip Advisor makes of it.
The aim of this post has been to get back to running and give an upbeat assessment of the current status in the fight against Ebola. I’ve touched on some of the good news above. The indicators across the board are extremely encouraging everywhere you look. It’s moved beyond cautious optimism. The fight is being won. 13 out of the 15 counties in Liberia are now reporting Ebola free. Schools are reopening mid Feb in Liberia and in Sierra Leone 3rd week of March. Schools have been closed since July.
In Sierra Leone there are 13 districts. Two have now reported 42 clear days without new cases. Average cases this past 2 weeks are around 10 - 12. Today’s stats are fairly typical; 8 dead and 11 new cases. Yesterday was 8 dead and 8 new cases. In fact, new cases have dropped by over half from Dec. There will undoubtedly be setbacks, new flare ups and it may be a while yet before the whole country is free from new cases of Ebola. However, the indicators are undeniably good. Everywhere in Freetown still has to be closed at 1800 hrs and nowhere can open on a Sunday. This is shops, restaurants, coffee shops, everywhere in fact. These restrictions are slowly being lifted. The price of petrol was also cut by 17% last week by the government, which brought plenty of cheer. There’s talk of the airlines coming back, countries are reopening borders… there’s plenty of good news after months of bad.
On that theme it was joyous news that UK nurse Pauline Cafferkey was recently discharged from hospital. Sadly a 43 year old Cuban nurse Reinaldo Antigua died recently of Malaria. She had come to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola. The toll medical frontline personnel have taken is horrendous. 488 medics have died of Ebola in West Africa; the highest number in Sierra Leone (221 deaths out of 296 infected). As this cruel virus is gradually defeated I’ll reflect in the next post the devastation left behind. A battered economy being the main result.
What of the Food Basket Appeal? First, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed. To-date we’ve raised over $12k through this blog. We still have around $5k to spend. The next post will be another contribution of some kind. The response has evolved as many others have filled the gaps, this included us with the food baskets. There remains plenty of need. One key area and a major concern is the huge number of orphans. It’s entirely possible we look in this direction, or help others who’re already working to this end. Children returning to school is another challenging area. We might do school packs or help pay fees. Rest assured the money you’ve given will be spent wisely and to maximum effect. The fund remains open to any new contributions.
I’ve enjoyed taking you all around my neighbourhood this morning. Indeed, ‘A Happy New Year From Freetown’. 2015 has to be better than 2014… here’s hoping…