Aid worker fears Ebola may never be gone

Ebola victim grave in Sierra Leone reads 'unknown child'
Ebola victim grave in Sierra Leone reads 'unknown child'

Scotia Aid project director Andrew Wood fears Sierra Leone may never find itself free from outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

Andrew, who was making his third visit to the African nation on behalf of the Tannochside-based charity, admits that local superstition and a lack of health care is making Ebola difficult to tackle.

He said: “I have been itching to get back to Sierra Leone since my visit last June, but it was impossible for a year due to the high threat of Ebola.

“At its peak in November/December there were dozens of new cases every day and while that level has now dropped it is still very much there.

“People in Sierra Leone are acting like the threat has gone, but this is not the case. They did go six days without a recorded case, but then they started to appear again.”

West Africa was hit badly by Ebola with 11,000 deaths, mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Andrew said: “The main problem initially was people refusing to believe the disease was real, they were putting the illness down to evil spirits or such like and trying to get treated in traditional ways.

“There was even a rumour that the government were harvesting people and selling their organs and blood abroad to meet a worldwide shortage.

“As such anyone who thought they might have Ebola wasn’t keen to surrender themselves to quarantine and even now it is impossible to say how many cases are truly out there as there are still people going on the run to escape the government.”

Andrew was moved by the huge Ebola cemetery in Freetown, where necessity has meant many families being unable to say goodbye to their loved ones properly.

He said: “When I first came here it was the size of a football pitch, now it is the size of three and you are lucky if the grave is marked by more than a stick and maybe a sign that says ‘unknown’.

“As such many families are still carrying out traditional funerals which means the bodies are not being treated to kill the disease.

“If you are careful it is easy to avoid catching Ebola, but I fear in Sierra Leone it will never truly be gone.”

Andrew was in Sierra Leone to oversee the beginning of a project to build a new hospital.

Scotia Aid has teamed up with an Italian charity and it is hoped building work will start in September after the rainy season has passed.

Andrew said: “There is basically no health care in Sierra Leone, you either pay for it or you don’t get treated.

“The new hospital will be in two phases, we are hoping to have a unit set up for disabled children and orphans by the end of the year and then a second build up and running by this time next year for other people to get care.

“I was over visiting the contractors and the builders to see how the situation is and things are looking good for work to start once the rains are gone.

“I am hoping that I will be able to get back to Sierra Leone to oversee the start of the project, but with Ebola still being present in the country will just need to wait and see if travel is allowed.”

Scotia Aid is hosting The Big Gig at New Douglas Park on Wednesday, June 10.

Live bands from schools across North Lanarkshire will be competing from 3-9pm with Mickey 9’s and Tim De Graauw also appearing as guest acts.

Tickets costing £5 can be purchased from participating schools, Hamilton Accies, Blameless, Scotia Aid or at the gate on the day.