A carpenter makes coffins in New Kru in Monrovia, Liberia
A carpenter makes coffins in New Kru in Monrovia, Liberia

Ebola outbreak: Quarantine camps in West Africa at breaking-point

Break-out attempts as food shortages add to inmates’ desperation

Jonathan Paye-Layleh
Thursday 23 October 2014 20:50

Dozens of people quarantined for Ebola monitoring in western Liberia are threatening to break out of isolation because they have no food, the West African nation’s state radio has reported.

Forty-three people were put in quarantine after four people died of Ebola in Jenewonda, a town in an impoverished corner of Grand Cape Mount County near the Sierra Leone border, the Liberia Broadcasting System said.

It quoted those quarantined as saying that the UN World Food Programme apparently has stopped providing food to people affected by Ebola in the area. But a World Food Programme spokesman said they hadn’t been distributing food there.

“WFP in Liberia heard about this community being isolated only two days ago via the radio and staff immediately began organising a mission to bring food to the quarantined people,” said spokesman Alexis Masciarelli. The WFP logistics unit was delivering food to that community today, he said.

There are no trucks in Grand Cape Mount County so food needs to be driven in from Monrovia, he said.

Liberia is the hardest hit of three West African nations being ravaged by Ebola. The latest figures published by the UN World Health Organisation show the country has at least 4,665 infected people and 2,705 have died there. Isolation is a key tactic to try and halt the spread of the virus. The United States and the government are also working to create more treatment centres to help manage the outbreak.

In Guinea, another country hit hard by the outbreak, fear of the virus has kept patients and health workers, including doctors, from a hospital that is serving as an Ebola centre in the capital, Conakry.

“People are talking about Ebola all over here. They say, ‘If you come here at the hospital you will get this and that,’” said Abdulai Sie Sawaneh, a merchant living and working at the Donka hospital compound. “The public is now afraid of the hospital and nobody is coming.” Earlier this month, President Alpha Condé called on retired doctors to join the fight against Ebola.

M’balia Camara, who sells food at the hospital, said she has lost customers. “There is no business. People have run away from the hospital because even if you have a headache they will say you have Ebola and they will inject you to die,” she said. “

In Freetown, the Sierra Leone capital, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, Anthony Banbury, told a news conference: “We are working to put this fire under control.”

They would start by trying to isolate at least 70 per cent of cases, he said. The UN plan to stop transmission also includes safely burying at least 70 per cent of victims by 1 December and to have 100 per cent of cases isolated and all the dead safely buried by 1 January. Mr Banbury said, “The world has never seen a crisis of this nature where people are dying every day with unsafe burial practices. A lot of work needs to be done and no one country can do it alone,” he said.


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