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2016-08_dc

D+C  e-Paper  August 2016 23 It will still take a long time for Sierra Leone to overcome the impacts of the Ebola epidemic. The outbreak of the disease was only possible due to the region’s social and economic situation, which result from policy-making. Decades of marginalisa- tion and social inequality are major issues that need to be addressed. Doing so needs to be a top priority for restoring stability to all countries affected. The global dimensions are that brain drain in the medical professions must be stemmed, and rich nations must contribute to funding health care in the world’s least developed regions. By Anne Jung West Africa presented optimal conditions for the spread of the Ebola virus in 2014. The health- care systems of the three countries worst affected – Guinea (Conakry), Liberia and Sierra Leone – are among the weakest in the world. Ebola swept relent- lessly across the region. Ten thousand people were infected in Sierra Leone alone, and nearly 4,000 peo- ple died. Altogether, the epidemic claimed more than 11,000 lives. Even today, the death of so many relatives and friends casts a pall of sorrow over Sierra Leone. More- over, the fear that the disease could return is still being felt, and so is the sense of helplessness at having been abandoned by the government and international community. At the same time, people’s pride in hav- ing beaten Ebola in collective action is also evident. They know full well, however, that poor health-care infrastructure left them no alternative. A profession- ally run and adequately equipped health-care system would have nipped the Ebola crisis in the bud. “Do or die.” This was the laconic response to the question of what motivated thousands of community workers, many of whom received only minimal remu- neration for their efforts. They spent months going from door to door, informing people about risks and how to protect oneself. Many of them became infected themselves and even died because of the poor stand- ard of equipment at health facilities. The community is proud of everyone who helped the sick and fought the virus “on the front line”. People saw their actions as self-empowerment. At the same time, they were acutely aware of the absence of the state agencies and the government’s failure to build effective health-care and education infrastruc- ture, especially in rural areas . For decades, successive Sierra Leone governments have failed to establish a public health system worthy of the term. Social leveller During the epidemic, there was less tolerance for rule-bending and corruption that otherwise mark daily life in Sierra Leone. The political leadership was not, as it normally is, above the law. Sierra Leo- neans were astonished when Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana was quarantined for 21 days after one of his bodyguards died of Ebola. They were equally surprised when a high-ranking minister was stopped at a roadblock and forced to observe the travel restric- tions imposed across the country. Indeed, the rules Cured but not in good shape Many community workers in Sierra Leone put themselves at risk in the fight against Ebola. AP Photo/picture-alliance Sierra Leone Freetown

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