Sierra Leone released its last known Ebola patient, 35 year-old Adama Sankoh, on Monday 24 August 2015 from the Mateneh Ebola Treatment Centre in Makeni, in the northern Bombali District.
“This is the beginning of the end of Ebola in Sierra Leone,” said President Ernest Bai Koroma at the discharge ceremony, cautioning the crowd not to be complacent but to continue being vigilant and focus “as we have 42 more days to go,” the President added. President Koroma commended the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and the various District Ebola Response Centres across the country as well as the health workers, police, Armed Forces of Republic of Sierra Leone, political parties, religious bodies, traditional leaders and all Sierra Leoneans who in diverse ways contributed to the fight against Ebola. The President was grateful to the country’s international development partners for the role played in making Sierra Leone “reach this day” and appealed to them to further commit themselves to support the over 4,000 Ebola survivors to rebuild their lives and integrate them back into their society. He expressed how tired he was of Ebola and wanted to see its end so that the country can get back on track with the growth of its economy and other developments.
The pride on Adama’s face was glittering. “I am a proud survivor, to be discharged by the president himself,” she said. Handing over her discharge certificate, President Koroma encouraged her to sensitise her community about the disease, reminding the people of Sierra Leone to continue to call 117 when someone is sick. Giving the vote of thanks, Adama called on all citizens to continue to observe health measures of hand washing and safe burial. She said that although she had lost a son, she is happy to be alive today, to be part of the many others who had survived the disease. She appealed to the president to continue to support survivors as “we have no idea on how to start life again,” she said. Alhaji Moijueh Kaikai, the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, whose ministry is responsible for providing and coordinating support to survivors from government and donors, handed over the discharge pack to Adama. It contained matrasses, household utensils and a purse of Le300, 000 ($55).
The discharge and certification ceremony was attended by cabinet ministers, senior government officials, development partners, traditional leaders, journalists and stakeholders of the Bombali and Tonkolili Districts.
For more than two weeks now, there has been no new infection cases reported according to the NERC, even though 28 people are being monitored in quarantine until the end of the week in case they develop symptoms. Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in Sierra Leone since the start of the outbreak in May 2014. The outbreak will not be declared until 42 days after the last Ebola patient either dies or is discharged. The Mateneh Ebola Treatment Centre is run by the International Medical Corps in the outskirts of Makeni, and was constructed by the British Army with funding from Department for International Development (DFID). Since its set up in the height of the EVD spread in late 2014, the centre has admitted a total of 108 patients with 45 survivors.
The UN Women Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr Mary Okumu, one of the many dignitaries present at the ceremony, noted that UN Women has been in the fight since the beginning of the outbreak of the epidemic, saying “it is most gratifying to be present and to witness this ceremony.” She pointed out how Ebola has affected more women and girls (56.7%) due to their pre-existing social and economic vulnerabilities attributed to gender norms and behaviour that perpetuate gender inequality. To address the multiple and emerging gender dimensions of EVD in Sierra Leone, UN Women has developed an infection and prevention control protocol, conducted a multi-sectorial impact assessment of the Gender dimensions of Ebola and established women friendly shelters to accommodate and rehabilitate Ebola survivors and nurses who were being stigmatized. In addition, UN Women has provided psychosocial support and means of economic empowerment to survivors and Ebola affected families, particularly women and girls, and run the women led “Getting Ebola to Zero and Staying Zero Campaign” across all 14 districts that brought together women from safe and unsafe districts to share ideas on how they have succeeded in keeping Ebola away from their communities.