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Ebola update : Sadness is written all over faces

At the start of the New Year it would be wonderful if we could report a dramatic improvement in the Ebola epidemic in Waterloo SL. Sadly, although the situation has improved considerably in much of the country since early December, the number of new cases in Waterloo is persistently high, with about five patients diagnosed every day. Official figures from the National Emergency website show that Waterloo and its surrounding rural district remain an Ebola ‘hot-spot’, and is one of the worst-hit areas in the country: 110 new cases in the last three weeks, 47 of them during the first week of January alone, and a horrifying total of 1,100 confirmed cases since the start of the local outbreak nearly five months ago. The human cost is unimaginable.

Its usual projects all ‘on hold’ at the moment, the Waterloo Partnership is continuing to concentrate its resources on providing humanitarian aid to victims of Ebola. It costs the charity about £2,500 a month to feed 60 vulnerable children – including 20 Ebola orphans – and in addition 100 or so people at any one time who have been placed in 21day quarantine, enforced after an Ebola death or diagnosis in the family. The more cases, the more ‘contacts’ in quarantine, especially if the Ebola patient lived in a multi-occupied compound.

The Chair of Waterloo Partnership in Sierra Leone, Badara Mansaray, was busy on Christmas Day, ‘topping up’ essential supplies of bottled water, firewood, rice, sardines and baby milk to homes in a compound which was starting its fourth consecutive period of quarantine. Of the original eight families living in the compound, two had been wiped out by Ebola. Two residents who were showing symptoms of Ebola had been sent to the UK holding/treatment centre at Kerry Town on Christmas Eve, and two more in the early hours of Christmas Day, so the 21 day quarantine was starting all over again from the beginning. The charity was also able to supply ten families living in another quarantined compound, fifty people in all, with more than ten children under six, and two nursing mothers. None of these people were allowed to leave their homes to search for food; but the Waterloo Partnership (SL) was able to supply food quickly to allow quarantine to begin, and to prevent absconding.

Badara described Christmas in the ‘other’ Waterloo: ‘Thank you for thinking about our community during this sad period. Our Christmas was quiet and most people stayed home. A brief church service was held at St Barnabas church next to my house and worshippers returned home just after that. This happened all over the community. A few children roamed the streets but very few adults could be seen. Normally at this time the streets used to be bustling with a lot of activities and celebrations with masquerades dominating. This is the first festive season in my whole life that the streets and the markets have been completely deserted. Today is a different day. Sadness is written all over the faces of people. We will be back to work (delivering food supplies) in the morning’, wrote Badara.

Thank you to all our donors for your generous support, which enables the Waterloo Partnership to continue its work of feeding the hungry during this grim epidemic.