Ebola Takes Toll on Sierra Leone [press release]

The Ebola outbreak has disrupted economic and other activities in Sierra Leone, causing widespread dislocations.

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent a total of US$20,000 to provide food, educational materials for the prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus, as well as materials and equipment to provide adequate sanitation for persons who have been affected by the crisis.

ldquoThe Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone is affecting the economy of the state, communities, households and individual family members,rdquo Samuel Conteh, coordinator of social ministries for the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone, told the BWA.

The outbreak, which began in March, occurred during the height of the farming season. Agriculture is roughly 58 percent of Sierra Leonersquos gross domestic product (GDP).

ldquoThis is the time rice farmers plant their rice fields and plantation (cocoa, coffee, etc.). The outbreak has not only abruptly halted these farming activities, but has also claimed the lives of farmers,rdquo Conteh said.

ldquoSome survivors are either quarantined or can no longer frequent their farms or plantations thereby leaving the crops to perish, particularly in epicenters like Kenema, Kailahun and Bo, where the majority of the population depends on rice and plantation farming for their livelihood.rdquo

Conteh indicated ldquothat most of the Ebola deaths are in the age brackets of between 15 and 45 years old, which fall within the active labor force, thereby leaving a huge population (children and the aged) as dependents.rdquo

As a result, there is food shortage and the price of basic food supplies has skyrocketed. There is urgent need for food, especially for Ebola survivors and orphans. Agricultural supplies for planting the next harvest are also a great need.

The mining sector, the fifth highest contributor to Sierra Leonersquos GDP, has also been negatively affected. Large mining companies ldquohave all scaled down their activities leading to mass redundancy of a massive work force. Government revenue from this sector has also gone down,rdquo Conteh affirmed.

In other areas of the economy, people have been laid off or made redundant. Education is virtually crippled as schools are closed.

The health sector is also severely affected. Approximately 50 medical personnel have died, including three prominent doctors. According to Conteh, persons are fearful of visiting health facilities lest they are labeled as Ebola patients and, as a result, are dying of ailments other than Ebola. Pregnant and nursing mothers are not visiting clinics to receive necessary prenatal and postnatal care. Babies and young children are not receiving necessary immunizations to ward off other infectious diseases.

Church activities have been drastically reduced. ldquoChurch attendances are dwindling. Baptist activities are being slowed down, particularly in [the] epicenters. The traditional embracing and handshake among members after church service have disappeared,rdquo declared Conteh.

Source : Baptist World Alliance

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