Sierra Leone has been declared free of Ebola after six weeks without any new cases, but Tearfund’s work to help those affected recover will continue well into next year.
After 42 days without fresh infections, news of the watershed was marked by a candlelight vigil in the capital Freetown attended by thousands of Sierra Leoneans at the weekend.
Francis Wahome, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Sierra Leone and Liberia, described the declaration as a very important milestone: ‘People have already started to go back to their usual lifestyles like congregating on the beaches at weekends, hugging and normal body contact.
The declaration of Ebola-free status has a huge symbolic significance
Francis Wahome, Tearfund's Country Representative for Sierra Leone and Liberia
‘One can just hope that people still remain vigilant as cases remain in Guinea and it has been proved that the virus can survive in the human body for a long time. However, the declaration of Ebola-free status has a huge symbolic significance as people can now go back to normal economic activities.’
For Tearfund partners, who provided practical and psychosocial support during the outbreak, the work continues, now focusing on helping survivors recover. This will take the form of training so people can start new livelihoods, along with grants to help them set-up small enterprises.
To improve people’s access to food, we’re supplying agricultural training and distributing seeds and tools.
In addition, we’ll be supporting children orphaned by the disease so they can continue their education, plus offering ongoing psychosocial help.
Tearfund partners will also be improving access to water and sanitation and raising awareness of good hygiene practices.
Poverty is still there
But there will be challenges to overcome for the countries affected by the disease, such as rebuilding health infrastructure, according to Mairo Retief, Tearfund’s Ebola Programme Officer: ‘All the issues they faced before Ebola, such as poverty and the effects of war, are still there and have been exacerbated.
‘That’s why I feel a mixture of relief, excitement for the future and sadness for what has passed.
'Hopefully the country can focus on their recovery efforts with renewed energy, including the improvement of their health, water and sanitation facilities and reducing poverty across the country.’
- Give thanks that both Sierra Leone and Liberia are Ebola-free, but pray for our partners as they continue to support affected communities.