Category Archives: Community

EbolaWatch: Fear, warnings, trials, and borders

We begin with fear in the extreme, via the Observer:

Top-secret military warning on Ebola biological weapon terror threat

  • Porton Down memo marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’ reveals scientists analysed use of virus by al-Qaida or Isis

Scientists at the top-secret military research unit at Porton Down, Wiltshire, have been assessing the potential use of Ebola as a bioterrorism weapon, according to confidential documents.

A three-page memo, marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’, reveals that the unit, where chemical, radiological and biological threats are analysed, was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida and Islamic State (Isis) could use the deadly virus to attack western targets.

The heavily redacted document, which has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that the unit was asked last October to provide “guidance on the feasibility and potential impact of a non-state actor exploiting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa for bioterrorism”.

From the Associated Press, another warning:

WHO: Sharp decline in Ebola cases has now leveled off

The official leading the World Health Organization’s response to the Ebola outbreak says a steep decline in case numbers has leveled off over the past month and that the development is a cause for concern.

Dr. Bruce Aylward told reporters Friday “today is the first time we have the data to demonstrate this” flattening of the curve.

The U.N. has said 10 times fewer people are being diagnosed with Ebola each week than in September, but Aylward says the rate has hovered around 120 to 150 new cases a week for the past month.

More form the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Ebola doctor fears deadly scenes may yet be repeated

Nathalie MacDermott hopes never again to see desperate patients, terrified as blood pours from their eyes and mouths, lashing out and frantic as they die surrounded by vomit and faeces.

To this young British doctor, Ebola is “a disease that strips people of any kind of dignity in death”. Yet she fears the scenes she witnessed as an aid worker in West Africa’s epidemic may be repeated as the deadly virus is beaten back, memories fade and conspiracy theories creep in.

“Case numbers are coming down and people have relaxed a lot. And while it’s nice to see people able to get on with life again, it is also a bit concerning — because in some people’s eyes, Ebola has gone,” MacDermott said in an interview.

In others’ eyes, it was never there at all.

From the Guardian, unfortunate:

UK Ebola nurse under investigation after claims of misconduct

  • The Nursing and Midwifery Council looks into reported claims that Pauline Cafferkey’s symptoms were obscured after her return from west Africa

A British nurse who was diagnosed with the Ebola virus after returning from Sierra Leone is being investigated over claims of misconduct, the body that oversees nursing within the UK has confirmed.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said that it had received information from Public Health England about the conduct of Pauline Cafferkey that it would look into, along with two other nurses.

Cafferkey was diagnosed with the virus in December after returning from west Africa, where she had been volunteering as a health worker. She was treated at the Unit for Infectious Diseases on the Gartnavel hospital campus, Glasgow, before being transferred to specialist facilities at the Royal Free hospital in London.

From the UN News Center, an approval:

UN health agency approves rapid test for Ebola as decline in cases appears to level off

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that it has approved for use a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola that can provide results in 15 minutes and correctly identify 92 percent of patients infected by the disease that has killed more than 9,400 people, mainly in West Africa.

Meanwhile at UN headquarters, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO’s response on Ebola, and Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, briefed Member States on the need to maintain the robust response to get the number of cases to zero.

“As long as there is even one case of Ebola active in the human population, it’s a danger for everybody – it’s a problem for West Africa, it’s a problem for [wider] Africa and it’s a problem for the world, Dr. Nabarro told reporters after their briefing. “We must be fully engaged, all of us, until the last person with Ebola is treated and is cured.”

On to Sierra Leone and another treatment trial, via the Guardian:

Trials using Ebola survivors’ blood for treatment to start in Sierra Leone

  • Clinical tests due to start in February in Sierra Leone will be used to establish whether antibodies in the plasma of Ebola survivors can save lives

Clinical trials using the blood of Ebola survivors in treatment are to be extended to Sierra Leone.

Discussions have been held about transferring blood plasma already banked in the Liberian capital Monrovia to Sierra Leone, where between 60 and 80 people a week are being infected.

Technicians at Sierra Leone’s National Safe Blood Transfusion Service were trained in Liberia on the apheresis plasma extraction machines at the end of January.

Two new apheresis machines are being shipped to the national blood bank in Sierra Leone for the study, said Simona Zipursky, a World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Freetown.

And from the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the dark side:

Reckless information minister calls missing Ebola funds audit report baseless, fallacious and a distraction

According to reports, Sierra Leone’s reckless and infamous minister of information – Alpha Kanu, has now turned his poisonous fangs on to the credibility and hard earned, no nonsense image of the country’s astute Auditor General – Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce.

The Auditor General’s report into millions of dollars stolen from the Ebola fund, has irreparably ruptured trust in the government’s ability to manage public funds, as the number of new Ebola cases rises once again.

And serious questions are now being asked as to whether the Koroma government should, and can ever be trusted with managing foreign aid, which accounts for over 60% of the country’s revenue stream.

On to Liberia and another cause for concern, via FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Threat: S.D. Cooper Hospital Closed – 30 Quarantined

At one of Liberia’s private hospitals, more than 30 persons are said to be quarantined after authorities say a woman who knew she had Ebola deliberately tried to infect the staff of the S.D. Cooper Hospital in Sinkor. Madam Amanda Blah who died early this month disguised herself and went to over three health facilities including Mawah, JFK and S.D. Cooper.

The death of Blah followed when her cousin named Steve Yadolo who died from the virus in the Bong Mines bridge community, but infected three persons, including Blah, his sister Marlene Yadolo, and brother Elijah Yadolo who are presently at an ETU in the country.

The late Yadolo was a hygienist in Sector 2 and came in contact with a suspect of the Ebola virus at the Island Clinic ETU. According to a source, the case of Blah came from an outbreak in Bong Mines Bridge where there was a missing contact. A source confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Blah disguised herself and went to Mawah Clinic, where she changed her name and came in contact with several health workers.

From the Associated Press, looking for help:

AP Interview: Liberia leader urges help in post-Ebola phase

Liberia’s leader on Sunday urged the United States and other countries to keep up their support to the West African nation as it recovers from the Ebola epidemic and refocuses attention on infrastructure projects that will better position it to tackle future outbreaks of disease.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia needs outside help to see through its “post-Ebola agenda” of building up basic public services — development that she said was needed to prevent another deadly epidemic from becoming “a global menace.”

Among the needs she highlighted were power projects to keep hospital equipment running, roads so the sick can access medical facilities, and clean water to prevent diseases from spreading.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers border closings relaxed:

Liberia lifts Ebola curfew, re-opens borders

Liberia said on Friday (Feb 20) it was lifting nationwide curfews and re-opening borders shut last year at the height of the Ebola crisis, after the retreat of an epidemic that has killed thousands.

The move comes with Liberia and its neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone seeing new infections drop to a tenth of the numbers being reported at the September-October peak of the outbreak.

Liberia, which has recorded the most deaths and was hardest hit, is leading the recovery, reporting just a handful of new confirmed cases each week.

From the New Dawn, hypocrisy alleged:

Ebola survivors protest in Nimba

More than 10 Ebola survivors in Small Ganta and other parts of Nimba County have threatened to pick bones with the World Food Program, or WFP, for alleged neglect, while others say they would commit suicide due to continuous stigmatization from residents.

According to the Ebola survivors, the WFP left them out of a recent cell phones distribution along with mobile money.

One of the aggrieved survivors Mamie Forlay, told The New Dawn Nimba correspondent they were enticed to post for photograph, but unfortunately didn’t receive these items.

“The Nimba County Health Team, WFP, and UNICEF have been distributing food rations and other relief items to Ebola survivors in Small Ganta community, but only today they are coming up to  stop us from receiving these rations”, she lamented.

FrontPageAfrica covers help from abroad:

African Ebola Task Force Launches Food Drive for Ebola Orphans

The Minnesota African Task Force Against Ebola (MATFAE) will launch a food drive for Ebola orphans and neglected children in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, on Saturday Feb. 21, at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center–5600 85th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park, Minn.

The public event, designed as a first step in a sustained campaign to help address hunger and food insecurity in the three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Even as a united world races to contain the spread of Ebola in West Africa, life-threatening hunger and chronic food insecurity are beginning to devastate the lives of vulnerable people, especially poor families, orphans, neglected children, and seniors,” said Robena Lewis-Vincent, project coordinator of the food drive. “Unless the African Diaspora plays its part, so many vulnerable lives will be exposed to serious life-threatening crises beyond our worse fears.”

Heritage covers another call for help:

Brown urges EU support for roads to health program

Information Minister Lewis Brown has called for collaboration between Liberia and the European Union (EU) in constructing more feeder roads that lead to health facilities in the country.

Brown noted that if Liberia’s healthcare system is built to full capacity it will only be useful and more accessible in rural Liberia if roads leading to hospitals and other public health facilities are in good condition.

The Minister made the statement in a meeting with EU Ambassador to Liberia, TiinaIntelmann, at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia on Wednesday.

Finally, taking Ebolaphobia to extremes, via the Associated Press:

N. Korea bars tourists from popular race over Ebola concerns

North Korean authorities are barring foreigners from this year’s Pyongyang marathon, a popular tourist event, amid ongoing Ebola travel restrictions, the head of a travel agency that specializes in the country said Monday.

Nick Bonner, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, said more than 400 foreign runners had signed up with his agency alone for the event, which is to be held April 12. He said he was informed by officials on Monday that the race would be open only to local runners.

Though no cases of Ebola have been reported anywhere near North Korea, the country shut its borders to foreign tourists in October with strict regulations to keep the virus out. North Korean media have suggested Ebola was created by the U.S. military as a biological weapon.

MexicoWatch: Genes, crime, criticism, corruption

We begin with the genes, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Genetic Bank Operated by Mexican Families of Missing People

The lack of a response by the Mexican government on the issue of missing people in the country has pushed many of the victims’ families to becoming genuine experts on research and forensic science so much so that they are now operating a genetic bank without government intervention.

Involved in the project are researchers Ernesto Schwartz and Arely Cruz, as well as family members such as Julia Alonso, whose son went missing in New Leon state in 2008.

“Unfortunately, we have become experts, but not because we wanted but due to the misfortune of having a government like the one we have,” Alonso told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday.

It was held to announce the positive identification of Brenda Damaris Gonzalez, the first body to be identified through the project which has funding from Durham University in the UK.

From teleSUR, the criticism:

European Lawmakers Slam Mexican Government over Ayotzinapa Case

  • Members of the European Parliament harshly criticized the Mexican government’s handling of the disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

In a meeting between members of the European Parliament and Mexican government officials, EU lawmakers criticized the Mexican government for failing to adequately address human rights violations, corruption, and forced disappearances, in particular the handling of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students.

“I reject the idea that Iguala is an isolated case … We have to continue to process the issues and we possess the ability to admit when there exists a problem. We must also be willing to face the issue of organized crime, because the figures are alarming and are comparable to a state of war,” Italian Euro-deputy Pina Picierno said Thursday.

According to official figures, 22,322 are actually reported missing, while more than 10,000 have gone missing since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012.

The first of the murder stories from Latin Correspondent:

Gruesome murders and threats of violence stalk Mexican activists

Two activists who had campaigned for justice and searched for the victims of forced disappearances were brutally murdered in Mexico’s troubled south this month.

Last Friday, 26-year-old Norma Angélica Bruno Román was shot dead in front of her three children at a cemetery in Iguala, the same city where 43 students were abducted by corrupt police officers last September.

She was a member of a citizen-led organization combing mass graves in this troubled area of Guerrero state in search of missing relatives.

Nine days earlier, Gustavo Salgado Delgado, a 32-year-old leader of the left-wing Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR), was decapitated in the neighboring state of Morelos.

More from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Political Activist Murdered in Central Mexico

The local chairwoman of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the central town of Lagunillas was murdered, her party colleagues said Friday.

Cecilia Izaguirre Camargo was attacked while driving in the nearby community of Pinihuan.

The PRI leader in San Luis Potosi state, Joel Ramirez, condemned the killing and demanded an “exhaustive and expedited investigation” to find those responsible.

Ramirez also expressed concern about an increase in violence against political activists as the state prepares for elections.

From Reuters, corruption:

Mexico’s top auditor sees consensus for new anti-graft court

Mexico’s top auditor is optimistic the country can address a crisis of confidence in its institutions, in part by introducing an independent court to sanction public servants for corruption offenses, he told Reuters on Thursday.

Congress is to discuss a so-called new anti-corruption system during its current term and Juan Portal, who heads Mexico’s Federal Audit Office (ASF), said there appears to be broad agreement on key aspects of the plan.

Mexico’s government is struggling to win back public confidence since it emerged that President Enrique Pena Nieto, his wife and Finance Minister Luis Videgaray bought houses from companies that won government contracts.

And from teleSUR, more corruption:

60% of Mexicans Say Corruption has Increased with Peña Nieto

  • The President is under immense scrutiny over several scandals, including massacres, disappearances and embezzlement.

More than half of all Mexicans, out of the country’s 122 million people, believe that corruption has gotten worse since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012.

According to new statistics released Friday by the Mexican daily Reforma, at least 60 percent of the population believes that corruption in the country has increased in the last two years, with political parties perceived as the most corrupt institutions.

Senior public officials, the judiciary and then the state and federal governments are perceived to be the next most corrupt.

And to close, another dramatic protest image on behalf of the missing students and their families via Canal Matrix HD:

BLOG Ayotz

EbolaWatch: Curves, warnings, vaccine, schools

We begin with the latest weekly case curve from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, reflecting the rise and fall of weekly new case counts since the West African outbreak began [click on it to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola curve

From the New York Times, enduring danger:

Ebola Risks Linger, Officials Warn

Top United Nations officials on Wednesday warned against complacency over the waning Ebola epidemic in three West African countries and emphasized the difficulty of eradicating the disease that has left nearly 9,400 people dead.

Speaking to the General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that Liberia had progressed rapidly over the past month and was now reporting fewer than five new cases per week. But new cases have generally been increasing in Guinea and Sierra Leone in recent weeks, and Mr. Ban said that more than half of the newly infected people in those two countries had not been in contact with people known to have been infected. “This reminds us that setbacks can quickly follow apparent gains,” he said.

Dr. David Nabarro, appointed by Mr. Ban to lead the United Nations anti-Ebola effort, also spoke to the General Assembly and expressed concern about unsafe burials of Ebola victims, considered a major source of new transmissions. He said an Ebola-infected corpse, not handled safely, could spread the virus to as many as 30 others.

Another troubling development from the Washington Post:

Limited airborne transmission of Ebola is ‘very likely,’ new study says

A team of prominent researchers suggested Thursday that limited airborne transmission of the Ebola virus is “very likely,” a hypothesis that could reignite the debate that started last fall after one of the scientists offered the same opinion.

“It is very likely that at least some degree of Ebola virus transmission currently occurs via infectious aerosols generated from the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, or medical procedures, although this has been difficult to definitively demonstrate or rule out, since those exposed to infectious aerosols also are most likely to be in close proximity to, and in direct contact with, an infected case,” the scientists wrote. Their peer-reviewed study was published in mBio, a journal of  the American Society of Microbiology.

The study’s lead author, Michael T. Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, touched off a small furor and was condemned by some experts last Sept. 11 when he raised the same possibility in an op-ed piece in the New York Times as concern over the spread of the deadly disease was increasing rapidly.

From SciDev.Net, a call for inclusion:

How building community trust helps combat epidemics

Public health responses to the Ebola crisis neglected to build trust among affected people, and more must be done to engage with the ‘human factor’ when disease outbreaks occur, anthropologist Heidi Larson warns.

Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, says crisis response programmes must address public fears around disease.

One critical lesson to emerge from the Ebola epidemic, she says, is that failing to focus on communication and trust-building with communities early on can lead to heightened fears and misinformation that jeopardises safety and helps a disease spread.

Social scientists and medical experts need to work hand-in-hand to devise responses, Larson says, because “a public health or medical expert and an anthropologist will look at the same situation and notice very different things”.

While South Africa’s Independent Online notes that enduring cultural obstacle:

More unsafe burials in Ebola-hit states

Ebola-hit Sierra Leone and Guinea saw an increase in the last week in unsafe burials that risk spreading the disease, the World Health Organisation reported.

In Guinea, there were 39 unsafe burials and in Sierre Leone, there were 45 reported in the week to February 15, WHO said in a report late on Wednesday.

Ensuring safe burials of the highly contagious bodies of those who die from the virus has been a top priority in fight against the deadly virus.

WHO also warned that more than 40 new confirmed Ebola cases in the two countries had been identified only after the infected people had died in their communities, and not in treatment facilities.

On to Liberia and classroom help promised, via the Liberian Observer:

Plan International to Assist Schools in Observing Ebola Protocols

Plan International, a non-governmental organization engaged in education and child protection in Liberia, has disclosed plans to liaise with schools to help them to fully observe the Ebola protocols as schools resume classes.

Speaking recently to the Daily Observer in Ganta where Plan International (PI) conducted a daylong workshop for school administrators and heads of parent- teacher associations, Plan’s education emergency coordinator, Miriam Murray, said PI will be closely working with schools in the county to ensure the safety of children.

In addition to providing some materials to encourage the observance of the protocols, Ms. Murray indicated that PI will be reaching out to campuses to observe hand washing, teaching administrators how to detect quickly an Ebola patient, how to get a sick child to the parent and monitor cleanliness on school  campuses to ensure  students’ safety.

She gave further assurances that besides the hand washing materials and thermometers provided to schools, PI, in collaboration with UNICEF, will be providing kits to students.

An enforcement call, via the New Dawn:

Miatta wants preventive measures enforced

Former Montserrado County senatorial candidate and veteran artist, Miatta Fanhbulleh, has stressed the need for authorities at the Ministry of Education to ensure that students returning to school follow Ebola preventive measures while they are on various campuses.

Miss Fahnbulleh, an educator herself, said County Education Officers and District Education Officers in the 15 counties must monitor and report items that are lacking in schools across the country.

She also emphasized the need for CEOs and DEOs to go into counties and districts to conduct high level evaluation of school campuses, and to remain teachers not to forget about Ebola prevention materials distributed by authorities of the Health Ministry.

Miss Fahnbulleh spoke Thursday, February, 18, 2015 at the daily press briefing of the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill.

A call for alliance, via the Monrovia Inquirer:

PTA Must Organize Ebola Committees…Amb. Miatta Fanhnbulleh Urges

The Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Maternal Child Health, Madam MiattaFahnbulleh, has recommended that the Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) in schools in the country must organize PTA committees for the prevention of the Ebola virus in schools in the post Ebola era.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information’s regular press briefing on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Ambassador Fahnbulleh said it is not time to haggle over whether schools should be re-opened in February or in March as each school will reopen when prepared to do so.

According to Madam Fahnbulleh, who is also a proprietor of a private school, the prevention of Ebola in the classrooms should begin from the homes.

“It should be incumbent on parents not to allow their children to go to school without checking their temperatures and every household must not allow their children to go when they have fever,” she advised.

Religious schools plead for help, via Heritage:

Private schools crave for financial support

Following  the reopening of schools across the country, some authorities of private institutions have appealed to the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Education (MOE) for financial aid to settle their teachers’ salaries  to enable them reopen for this academy year.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) daily press briefing Wednesday, February 18,  the Director of Education of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) School System,  Madam Theresa Dweh Sirleaf, said the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has created financial crisis, which has also affected the running of schools across the country.

Madam Sirleaf noted that the SDA schools hire teachers on permanent basis and not contractual basis, and as such, the teachers are paid monthly regardless schools are closed or not.

She disclosed that their teachers have threatened to stay away from the classrooms unless their salaries are settled.

After the jump, a regional school Ebola protocol laid dawn, the chief justice pledges more Ebola support, escapees and a community initiative in Lofa County, the national Olympic committee joins in, on to Sierra Leone and food depriving quarantines, and a major vaccination campaign prepares to launch, plus more allegations against the man who won New York’s Ebola cleanup contract. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, aid, escapees, schools

First, the latest Ebola numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, an assessment from the UN News Centre:

UN envoy on Ebola likens final phase of response to ‘looking for needles in haystacks’

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, told the United Nations General Assembly today that the final phase of “getting to zero” cases may well be the hardest, saying the hunt to track down the virus is “like looking for needles in haystacks.”

Dr. Nabarro told reports that having strong surveillance capabilities on the ground to identify people with Ebola, to confirm diagnosis, to quickly arrangement arrange effective treatment, to identify people that are their contacts and to keep those people under review for 21 days “is a really difficult task,” especially as these tasks must be coordinated through 63 different government structures in an area the size of France.

The message by senior UN officials briefing an informal meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters on the public health crisis emanating from the Ebola virus outbreak was two-fold: the need for resources to immediate response to the disease that has affected some 23,000 people with 9,300 deaths, as well as the need to begin planning for revival and recovery.

“Today, we face a critical turning point,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks. “The pattern of the Ebola outbreak has changed. 2015 has seen a significant decline in the number of new Ebola cases in the three affected countries.”

He appealed to the Assembly: “Let us provide the resources needed to get to zero” the number of Ebola cases in the current outbreak.

“We are accelerating our work to reach the targets set by the Presidents of the Mano River Union on 15 February – zero cases in 60 days, by mid-April,” Mr. Ban said.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers aid promised:

EU to Finance Post-Ebola Reconstruction

The Chairman of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kadré Désire Ouédraogo, has disclosed that the European Union (EU) is considering financing post-Ebola reconstruction initiatives in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three worst affected countries.

Buttressing comments from the ECOWAS Regional Supervisor on Response and Eradication of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe of Togo, Commissioner  Ouedraogo disclosed that upon meeting with ECOWAS partners in Accra recently, the EU had consented to host a high-level meeting in Brussels, Belgium on March 3, to help the three countries in the post-Ebola development drive.

Commissioner Ouedraogo made the disclosure last Friday when he and the Togolese President paid a one-day solidarity visit to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Liberian people. He was one of the three who addressed a press stakeout following the meeting with President Sirleaf.

The ECOWAS Commission boss also disclosed that under the leadership of President Gnassingbe, a high-level meeting in Accra, Ghana, with all ECOWAS partners, was convened on January 16.   High on the agenda were pleas for the re-opening of all borders and the resumption of air services to and from Ebola affected countries; the establishment of a coordination mechanism at the level of ECOWAS in order to institute a more efficient response to the epidemic; and consideration for post-Ebola reconstruction needs of the worst affected countries.

On to Liberia and danger at large, via FrontPageAfrica:

Danger Lurks in Monrovia: Ebola Patients Flee W. Point Isolation

Concerns continue to mount over the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s handling of the Ebola virus heightening fears that the virus could spread faster than expected in Liberia.

In the West Point community Saturday, seventeen (17) suspected and some confirmed Ebola patients escaped an isolation center late in the evening.

Sam Tarplah, a registered nurse who is managing the self-initiative isolation center early Saturday morning took journalists on a tour of a facility where the positive Ebola patients were being kept in isolation.

The New Dawn carries a warning:

Ebola contact tracers warned

The deputy head for the Government Incident Management System, Dr. Francis Kateh, has warned Ebola contact tracers to remain where they are being quarantined, and stop moving from place to place, which could spread the infection rate.

Dr. Kateh narrated that there was a recent case from the St. Paul Bridge community on Bushrod Island and the infected person hid his identity and went from place to place, which has led a total of 107 persons being contacted from December 29, 2014 to February 13, 2015.

He said such habit initially led to five deaths followed by 10 persons for the second time, and then three persons the third time.

He cautioned contact tracers to remain where they have been quarantined, saying, “Food and medications will be provided.”

From the Associated Press, a presidential visit:

Liberia leader to visit US, 1st visit since Ebola outbreak

The president of Liberia will visit the United States later this month, her first trip to the country since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf plans to speak Feb. 26 at an event hosted by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and the U.S. Institute of Peace, the senator’s office said Wednesday.

The event is part of three days of meetings with Obama administration officials and lawmakers.

And from FrontPageAfrica, visitors received:

U.S. Congressional Staffers’ Delegation Calls on Ellen

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has held discussions with a United States Congressional Staffers’ Delegation visiting Liberia. The delegation is in country to assess the impact of the United States Government’s assistance to the Ebola response and to see what lies ahead of the country for the post-Ebola period.

The delegation headed by Majority Clerk, Senate Appropriation Sub-Committee for State and Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Mr. Paul Grove, included Staff Member of the same committee, Mr. Adam Yazerski; Majority Clerk, Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Ms. Laura Friedel; and an official at the Department of State, Mr. Paul Radamacher.

According to an Executive Mansion release, during the meeting held on Tuesday, February 17, at her temporary Foreign Ministry office, the President Sirleaf thanked the Government and people of the United States of America for the level of support to Liberia as seen over the years, with particular reference to the period of the Ebola outbreak.

The New Dawn covers more back-to-school concerns:

Students’ lives in risk

The Chairman of the Committee on  Health and Gender Affairs at the Liberian Senate has alarmed that the hasty reopening of schools across the country puts the lives of Liberian children at serious risk.

Dr. Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County said the country was still not safe for children to start schools. Senator Coleman accused the Liberian Government failing to put in place the rightful measures as required by the World Health Organization or WHO in reopening schools.

Senator Coleman, who won on the ticket of the National Patriotic Party or NPP during the 2011 Presidential and Legislative Elections, claimed that the government failed to live up the discussions held with Lawmakers, noting that the authorities at Education and Health Ministries were very defiant, exhibiting ‘done-care attitudes’ toward the plight of Liberian children.

Speaking in plenary on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in Monrovia, Dr. Coleman noted that authorities of the House of Representatives, the Liberian Senate, as well as the Health and Education Ministries met and agreed to reopen all schools in March of this year at which time international partners and the Health Ministry would have completed the distribution of Ebola prevention materials, but to the dismay of attendees at the meeting, authorities of the Education Ministry chose to hastily reopen schools.

And from Monrovia Inquirer, aid promised:

UNICEF Provides 7,000 Infection Prevention Kits To Schools

Kits distributed to 4,000 schools, as 1 million children begin returning to their classrooms across Liberia As schools begin reopening in Liberia today, thousands of kits containing basic hygiene items and thermometers are helping parents, staff and other community members keep children safe from infection from Ebola.      In partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF has provided over 7,000 kits, which partners have been distributing to over 4,000 schools in all 98 school districts.

School normally resume academic activities in September, but had remained closed because of Ebola.

“The Ebola outbreak has had a devastating effect on our health and education systems and our way of life in Liberia. We have managed to beat back the spread of the virus through collective efforts,” said Hon.

EtmoniaD.Tarpeh, Liberia’s Minister of Education. “Reopening and getting our children back to school is an important aspect of ensuring children’s education is not further interrupted,” she added.

More from the News:

Schools Call For Support

Two administrators of the Marvii Sonii and Clara Town Elementary and Junior High School in Monrovia have called on the Liberian Government to provide basic logistics to ensure the successful opening of their schools for academic year 2015.

Madam Oretha Manu Cole-Bureh, Principal of Marvii Sonii School said her institution is faced with several challenges which is hampering sits re-opening.

She named water and the lack of arm chairs as some of the major challenges her institution is faced with.

Cole-Bureh said the school septic tank is in a deplorable condition, which according to her, poses serious health hazard to the community and the learning environment.

On to Sierra Leone and a trackdown, via Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Sierra Leone hunts infected as Ebola crisis hits ‘turning point’

  • Sierra Leone launched a door-to-door search on Wednesday (Feb 18) for “hidden” Ebola patients as the head of the United Nations announced the world was at “a critical turning point” in the crisis.

Dozens of healthcare workers fanned out across remote parts of Port Loko district, east of the capital Freetown, after a spike in cases attributed to unsafe burials and patients being hidden from the authorities.

“Teams of health workers backed by security personnel are trekking into outlying areas and knocking on doors of houses… to check whether people are telling us the truth about not hiding sick people,” Morlai Dumbuya, a coordinator of the operation, told AFP. “So far we have not met any resistance and people are co-operating.”

The two-week operation follows a larger exercise in December, dubbed the “Western Area Surge”, when hundreds of volunteers knocked on doors across the west of Sierra Leone.

And from the Asahi Shimbun, Japanese aid contemplated:

Japan weighs SDF mission to Sierra Leone to help in fight against Ebola

The Defense Ministry is weighing whether to dispatch 400 or so Self-Defense Forces personnel to Sierra Leone to assist in international efforts to battle an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Ground SDF members would be tasked with ferrying doctors and medical supplies but not be involved in transporting Ebola patients, according to a high-ranking Defense Ministry official.

There are also plans to dispatch Maritime SDF transport and fueling ships to the coast of the nation in West Africa. The vessels would serve as a base of operations for the GSDF team.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, food, schools, vaccines

We begin with the latest numbers, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

More on the numbers from the News in Monrovia, Liberia:

WHO Reports Spike In Ebola Cases

The number of new Ebola cases rose for the second week in a row in West Africa, nearly doubling in Guinea, suggesting declines in the disease seen earlier this year had stalled, the World Health Organization stated in its latest situation report.

Efforts to wipe out the deadly virus are being hampered by people’s mistrust of health workers, and the number of people continuing to hide sick friends and relatives from authorities, particularly in Guinea’s capital Conakry, officials said.

West Africa recorded 144 new confirmed cases of Ebola in the week to Feb. 8 compared with 124 the previous week, the WHO said in a report.

“Despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices, and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled,” the U.N. agency said.

From the Associated Press, the high price of Ebolaphobia appealed:

Morocco appeals sanctions for refusing to host African Cup

Morocco has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the heavy sanctions it faces for withdrawing as host of the African Cup of Nations because of the Ebola epidemic.

Morocco was expelled from the 2017 and 2019 tournaments and was fined $1 million by the Confederation of African Football. CAF also demanded a further $9 million in compensation.

CAS says it received the appeal Tuesday from the Moroccan Football Federation, which seeks to have the sanctions lifted and requested that a final ruling be issued by the end of March.

Next up, food, first from Outbreak News Today:

Ebola impact in Guinea: 470,000 people might be food insecure by March

Tens of thousands of people in rural areas of Guinea worst-hit by the Ebola epidemic will receive training on how to prevent the spread of the disease and support in producing food and generating income, through an agreement involving the World Bank, the country’s government, and FAO.

As part of the initiative, $5 million will be invested in FAO’s Ebola Response Programme which aims to assist rural households whose livelihoods and access to food are severely threatened by the impact of Ebola.

“The funding is a much needed contribution towards building the resilience of communities whose already precarious situation of chronic food insecurity has been exacerbated by Ebola-related disruptions to farm labour, agricultural production and food markets,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for Africa.

More on the African food situation from IRIN:

A map of hunger in 2015 – where to watch

Food shortages are often portrayed as random – the result of freak weather conditions or short-term political crises. Yet they are often deeply predictable – while short-term trends can exaggerate the impact, most of the causes are structural.

Last week the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS Net) released its latest forward-looking analysis of food needs in key countries. The data track not just which countries are likely to have food shortages this year but when they are likely to occur.

IRIN’s interactive map highlights countries that are particularly prone to crisis. Click on a country to see how many people are at risk, the level of crisis and when the potential lean season is.

FEWS Net doesn’t cover all countries with food crises. Syria, India, and Iraq, for example are excluded. This is partly due to FEWS Net’s  background – it was founded in Africa – and also partly because in the case of Syria and Iraq these trends are still new.

And the map itself:

BLOG Africa hunger

From the United Nations News Center, a tour draws to a close:

Ebola: UN development chief begins last leg of West Africa mission

The top United Nations development official today began the last leg of her Ebola-recovery focused visit to West Africa a day after she witnessed the reopening of schools in Liberia and urged the international community to support “recovery from this terrible crisis” beyond the emergency phase.

Before leaving the Liberian capital, Monrovia, Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said late Monday that the crisis will not be over until there are zero cases of Ebola, which has affected more 23,000 people, with some 9,300 deaths. “It is clear that no one will be happy until there are zero cases across all three epicentre countries,” the UNDP Administrator told a press conference in Monrovia. “But the important message now is that international solidarity with Liberia should not end at the end of the emergency phase. It must continue in support of recovery from this terrible crisis.

Noting schools had re-opened in Liberia on Monday, shuttered for more than six months to help prevent transmission, were finally re-opened, she said Liberia was emerging from a “very traumatic time”. There was now, she said, reason for hope.

Tasked by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the lead the UN system’s recovery efforts, UNDP is committed to working with Liberia as it follows its path to recovery in a way that is consistent with the Government and people’s own longer term development aspirations.

From the Guardian, another European alarm:

Ebola: British health worker brought to UK from Sierra Leone for assessment

  • Woman potentially had contact with virus but Public Health England stresses risk of infection is very low

A British health worker potentially exposed to Ebola has been brought back to the UK for assessment and monitoring.

Public Health England (PHE) said the woman had potential contact with the deadly virus while in Sierra Leone.

“The individual has not been diagnosed with Ebola, does not currently have any symptoms and their risk of developing the infection remains very low,” PHE said.

On to Sierra Leoneitself and a vaccine trial with StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Ebola vaccine trial begins in March

Sierra Leone will commence the first trial of Ebola vaccine in the second week of March, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation said on Tuesday. The Sierra Leone Ebola Vaccine Evaluation Study (SLEVES) will take part in the exercise in four districts, including the capital, Freetown, covering all areas of the country currently hardest hit by the disease.

At least 6000 people will take part in the trial, mostly health workers and other people involved in the fight against the epidemic, Dr Mohamed Samai, Provost of the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of Sierra Leone, said Tuesday.

Dr Samai told reporters at a special press briefing marking the formal presentation of the program that Sierra Leone has lost 12 doctors, among them hundreds of other health workers, and that as such it was crucial that they were protected.

FrontPageAfrica covers back to school day:

‘Poor Show’: Some Schools Resume Classes in Liberia

The resumption of schools in Liberia got off to a slow start Monday, as many schools in the country did not reopen as expected. In Monrovia, most of the Private schools appeared to have opted to resume classes on March 2, 2015, the previous date announced by the government before it somersaulted less than a day later to February 16. Students turned up at the William V. S. Tubman High School one of the most prestigious government-run high schools in the country in drops.

Many of the students were seen in color clothes instead of uniforms with some wearing flip-flops on their feet. They seemed happy to be back though after the long break caused by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease. Theo Jallah, a student at the school said he could not be in school because he only had a uniform shirt and no trousers. He said things have been tough and he lost a lot during the Ebola Outbreak.

“I cannot wear a uniform to school right now because I don’t have it. I have lose many things during the last year and the Ebola situation made it worse,” he said. Peter Okoka, a 12th grader says he is happy to be back in school because he just sat at home idle with nothing to do.

And a second FrontPageAfrica story on the topic:

UNICEF Provides Ebola Prevention Kits to Aid Schools

As schools begin reopening in Liberia today, thousands of kits containing basic hygiene items and thermometers are helping parents, staff and other community members keep children safe from infection from Ebola. In partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF has provided over 7,000 kits, which partners have been distributing to over 4,000 schools in all 98 school districts. School normally resume academic activities in September, but had remained closed because of Ebola.

“The Ebola outbreak has had a devastating effect on our health and education systems and our way of life in Liberia. We have managed to beat back the spread of the virus through collective efforts,” said Hon. Etmonia D. Tarpeh, Liberia’s Minister of Education. “Reopening and getting our children back to school is an important aspect of ensuring children’s education is not further interrupted,” she added.

With the support of UNICEF, and other international partners, the Government of Liberia has developed protocols for the safe re-opening of schools. Among other steps, these protocols call for setting up hand-washing stations, checking the temperature of anyone entering the school, establishing an isolation area for children and staff who may fall ill, and having in place a system of referral to the nearest health facility.

From the News, vaccine questions:

Civil Society Meet On Trial Vaccines

The Civil Society Ebola Response Task Force on Tuesday, February 10 held a consultation with Dr. Stephen Kennedy, Co-investigator of the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL).

The meeting which was held at Search for Common Grounds in Sinkor was geared towards educating members of the Civil Society Task Force and media practitioners about the ongoing trials of two experimental Ebola vaccines in Liberia.

Dr. Kennedy told the gathering that PREVAIL is a joint Liberia – US partnership geared towards developing Liberia’s capacity to study common infectious diseases in Liberia and developing the country’s clinical research capacity.

And the Liberian Observer covers an ongoing crisis:

Ebola Survivors and Workers against Discrimination & Stigmatization

..Says Mercy Corps

Several Ebola survivors and health workers in Liberia’s fifteen counties have expressed displeasure about the issue of discrimination and stigmatization in their communities and country at large.

The survivors and Ebola health workers made the disclosure recently following Mercy Corps massive citizen-led community survey of people’s attitude and behavior relating to Ebola, which has so far received over 12,500 responses from across Liberia.

According to the survey, half of those surveyed said, that they would be uncomfortable visiting the house of an Ebola survivor while  nearly two thirds said they are not  comfortable eating from the same bowl as an Ebola worker.

The survey also proves that survivors and workers are also facing serious discrimination of which their families and frontline workers is having sometimes tragic Psychological and economic consequences, the NGO cautioned.

EbolaWatch: Goals, schools, money woes, help

We begin with tactics shifting, via the U.N.’s Global Ebola Response coalition:

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone Shift to Joint Tactics in Tackling Ebola and Recovery

The presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone met yesterday in Conakry, in a move to unify their efforts in tackling the Ebola epidemic, with the virus still to be defeated even as the number of new cases is declining overall.

During the one-day extraordinary summit organized by the Secretariat of the Mano River Union (MRU) comprising the three countries and Cote d’Ivoire, they committed to achieving zero cases within the next 60 days for all three most-affected countries, according to the final communiqué issued at the end of the meeting. Cote d’Ivoire, represented by its Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Dibby, has never registered any Ebola cases despite its proximity to the other three countries.

To reach and stay at zero infections, the MRU leaders committed to focusing on infection prevention and control, social mobilization, community engagement, surveillance and cross-border cooperation.

As they strive to rid their countries of the virus, Presidents Alpha Conde of Guinea, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Ellen Jonhson Sirleaf of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire’s Dibby “strongly” called on the international community to provide direct budget support and debt cancellation for the three most affected countries. They said that small and medium size businesses should be supported in order to create jobs and boost economic resilience. They also welcomed the World Bank’s proposal for a post-Ebola Marshall plan and called for accountability of the responders.

Reuters covers an optimistic goal:

Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia target zero new Ebola cases in 60 days

Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three states hardest hit by an epidemic of Ebola, said on Monday they had set a target of reducing the number of new cases to zero within 60 days.

The worst Ebola epidemic in history broke out in late 2013 in Guinea and has killed more than 9,000 people in all. Its spread is slowing but the World Heath Organization (WHO) warned of complacency after a recent spike in cases.

“The heads of state and the governments of the Mano River Union recognise the effort deployed by the states and the international community which has led to a decline in Ebola. They want to achieve zero new Ebola cases in 60 days from 15th Feb. 2015,” Guinea’s presidency said in a statement.

However, the number of new Ebola cases increased for the second consecutive week, with 144 new confirmed cases reported in the week to Feb. 8, the WHO said on its website.

On to Liberia, with a report on survivors challening stimatization from Al Jazeera America’s AJ+:

Ebola Survivors Fight Stigma In Liberia

Program notes:

After overcoming Ebola, survivors of the virus are facing new challenges living in a society that treats them with suspicion. To combat this stigma the Ebola Survivors Association organized a Valentine’s Day parade to raise awareness.

VICE News covers education resumed:

Schools in Liberia Have Opened for the First Time Since the Height of the Ebola Outbreak

Children lined up outside schools across Liberia on Monday, stopping to have their temperatures taken before attending classes for the first time since the rapid spread of the Ebola virus forced the government to close schools nationwide six months ago.

After weeks of preparation, Monday marked the first day since August that the Liberian government gave schools the go-ahead to open, a major test of the country’s ability to move past the deadly outbreak that has ravaged Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for more than a year. In some instances, schools that were retrofitted into Ebola treatment centers for the better part of 2014 have now been disinfected and transformed back into institutions with functioning classrooms.

“The Ebola outbreak has had a devastating effect on our health and education systems and our way of life in Liberia. We have managed to beat back the spread of the virus through collective efforts,” Liberia’s Minister of Education Etmonia D.Tarpeh said in a statement. “Reopening and getting our children back to school is an important aspect of ensuring children’s education is not further interrupted.”

More from NBC News:

Ebola Outbreak: Liberia Schools Reopen After 6-Month Closure

Students in Liberia returned to their classrooms Monday after a six-month closure during the Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead, lining up in their uniforms to have their temperatures taken before they could enter school gates. Pupils who trickled in to Saint Michael High School on the outskirts of the capital also washed their hands with chlorinated water before going inside.

Many students said they had grown tired of sitting at home, and at least one principal said teenage pregnancy had spiked during the six-month school gap. A few, though, remained a bit fearful about returning even though there are just a handful of Ebola cases left in the country that once saw 100 new patients a week.

Liberia has seen the highest death toll from the Ebola epidemic, with 3,800 killed. Deputy Education Minister Remses Kumbuyah said more than 5,000 kits were distributed to schools that included thermometers and chlorine for hand-washing. Overcrowding is a major problem in Liberia’s schools, where as many as 100 pupils may be in a single classroom. Since Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, administrators want to minimize the potential spread. Health officials have warned that a single new case could trigger a whole new cluster of infections.

On to Sierra Leone, and from the Associated Press, an investigation promised:

Sierra Leone promises probe into Ebola spending

Sierra Leone’s government promised a full investigation Monday after an internal audit found that nearly one-third of the money received to fight Ebola was spent without saving the necessary receipts and invoices to justify the spending.

The audit report first emerged in Sierra Leone’s parliament last week, detailing how some $5.75 million in funds either had no or insufficient documentation. That represents about a third of the total $19.32 million under review.

In a statement released Monday, the government pledged a full investigation, and said the matter also would be debated in parliament.

“Government wishes to make it abundantly clear that those who are found guilty of misusing Ebola funds will face the full force of the law,” it said.

More from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Ebola money eaters to face the law

- assures President Koroma

Individuals and institutions found guilty of misappropriating funds meant for the fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak in the country will face the full force of the law, avowed President Ernest Bai Koroma.

In a statement issued by the Office of the President last Friday following the release and tabling in Parliament on Thursday of an Audit Service Sierra Leone report on the management of Ebola funds, the President encouraged the general public to exercise patience and allow allegations contained in the report to be investigated. There and then he said appropriate action will be taken, and those found guilty of siphoning the Ebola funds will be made to pay for their action.

“Government notes the ongoing public interest concerning the Auditor-General’s report on the audit of the management of the Ebola funds which has been tabled in Parliament on Thursday 12th February, 2015,” the statement notes. “As the law provides, Parliament will debate the audit report and make appropriate recommendations on the issues raised therein.”

And a legislative review of an Ebola vaccination program, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Lawmakers discuss Ebola vaccine marklate study

Lawmakers last Wednesday discussed a planned Ebola vaccine marklate study on the prevention of the disease due to be undertaken in the country.

The study will be carried out by Sierra Leonean medical scientists along with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In his presentation in Parliament, acting Provost of COMAHS and Principal Investigator for the study, Dr. Mohamed Samai, said the marklate would help protect people from contracting the disease during this outbreak and even in the future.

“We have selected the first group in the current most affected districts, including Western Area, few chiefdoms in Bombali, Port Loko and Tonkolili, to name a few. We are going to begin with 200 high risk frontline health workers after some observations; 6,000 health workers are going to receive the vaccine with special criteria and requirement and everyone is going to be targeted based on their end result,” Dr. Samai told MPs.

And more help on the way from within Africa, via Independent Online:

Second SA team off to treat Ebola

A second team of South African health workers will head to Sierra Leone on Friday to help treat Ebola patients, the AU and the health department said.

The 20 nurses and three paramedics had already undergone two days of deployment training by the AU and health department officials, the AU and the department said in a joint statement on Monday.

They would receive two more weeks of intensive training when they arrived in Sierra Leone before starting their duties as part of the AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).

This followed the deployment of a doctor and 10 nurses from South Africa, through the non-profit organisation Right to Care, on January 23.

EbolaWatch: Only scenes from the front lines

Virtually nothing coming today from the governments and NGOs of the North, so we’ll go straight to Guinea with Reuters for a story that’s all too common of late:

Crowds attack Ebola facility, health workers in Guinea

Crowds destroyed an Ebola facility and attacked health workers in central Guinea on rumours that the Red Cross was planning to disinfect a school, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

Red Cross teams in Guinea have been attacked on average 10 times a month over the past year, the organisation said this week, warning that the violence was hampering efforts to contain the disease.

During the incident on Friday in the town of Faranah, around 400 km (250 miles) east of the capital Conakry, angry residents attacked an Ebola transit centre and set ablaze a vehicle belonging to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

More Guinean anger and concern, this time for their children, via Agence France-Presse:

Ebola rumors cause panic in Guinean schools

Program notes:

More than 1.3 million children have returned to school in Guinea since the restart of lessons following the Ebola outbreak according to UNICEF. But there are rumours that Red Cross treatments are spreading the deadly disease.

On to Sierra Leone and an angry denial, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone reacts to claims of human rights abuse

The Sierra Leone government has denied allegations that the President Ernest Bai Koroma was using prevailing state of emergency rules to stifle human rights.

The reaction comes after a report by a researcher with Amnesty International highlighted a case involving the mass arrests of alleged protesters in the diamond-rich Kono district over an anti-Ebola

The incident, according to reports, occurred in October 2014. Over 30 people were detained, among them two women who still languish in jail.

At least two people were killed in the incident that erupted when a local politician refused to allow his elderly sick mother taken to an Ebola holding center.

Deutsche Welle covers a scandal with deepening repercussions:

Millions in Ebola funds unaccounted for in Sierra Leone

  • Sierra Leone has failed to properly account for almost a third of the money it earmarked to fight the Ebola epidemic, according to an audit. More than 3,000 people have died from the epidemic in the West African nation.

Sierra Leone’s national auditor said authorities lost track of nearly a third of the 84 billion leones ($19.5 million, 16.9 million euros) in emergency funds, set aside by the government between last May and October.

According to the audit, the funds were mostly spent on personal protective equipment, medical supplies, consumables and bonus payments to healthcare workers.

There was no paperwork to support the spending of 14 billion leones ($3.2 million, 2.8 million euros) from the government’s emergency health response account. A further 11 billion leones spent from the same account had missing receipts and invoices.

More from StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Gov’t urges patience over audit report

The Sierra Leone government has on Saturday called for patient among the general public on the recently released audit report revealing massive corruption in the management of monies meant to fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Auditor General’s Office on Thursday published its much anticipated report on the use of the funds which indicted mainly the Health ministry for failing to account for millions of US Dollars.

The document was presented to parliament which will look at it and give recommendations.

In a statement, the government said it noted the interest in the public but asked that citizens allowed the parliament to look at the document and debate it, and it assured that whatever recommendation that came out of it would be followed to the later.

And from StarAfrica again, a Fourth Estate campaign:

S/Leone Journalists launch yellow ribbon Ebola-awareness campaign

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has launched a Yellow Ribbon campaign geared towards the fight against the Ebola epidemic.

The symbolic event was held at the historic Cotton Tree in the center of Freetown on Saturday. The campaign is geared towards ending the Ebola scourge in the country, say SLAJ officials.

As part of the campaign, journalists are urged to wear the yellow ribbon to serve as raising awareness. The ribbon can also be worn by any member of the public. SLAJ is hoping that the symbol will eventually represent Ebola as the red ribbon does HIV/AIDs.

“ The launching is one day but the campaign is ongoing,”  said Moses Kargbo, National Secretary General of SLAJ. He urged fellow journalists to support the course by carrying the yellow ribbon and the accompanying special messages on Ebola.

While the Sierra Leone Concord Times covers another complication:

‘Sexual offences are second epidemic’

…says First Lady

While delivering her keynote address at the launch of ‘Leh Wi Know’, a radio programme by the BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone which looks into the lives of women and girls who face injustice in the country, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone has said that the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the country has exponentially increased since the outbreak of Ebola, thus referring to it as the “ second epidemic in Sierra Leone” .

Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, speaking at the Sierra Lighthouse, Aberdeen yesterday, lamented reports of a surge in the rate of sexual assault, particularly against girls, in the country.

She said a national conversation on how to address the problem and provide protection and support to those women and children was imperative, and emphasised that Ebola has not been the cause but a catalyst, worsening an already pervasive problem in the country.

She urged that discussants should also remember challenges women and girls in the country face, which stretch far beyond teenage pregnancy and sexual assault, and to remember how important it is for women and girls to access information they need for support and protection.

Then on to the Gambia, with an admonition via the Daily Observer in Banjul:

Health Promotion boss warns against Ebola-free status complacency

The director of Health Promotions and Education at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has warned that The Gambia being Ebola-free should not be a reason for people to be complacent about the contagious virus.

Momodou Njai, who was speaking during an interview with the Daily Observer at his office in Kotu on Monday, affirmed that even though the contagious virus is virtually endemic in some countries within the sub-region, the country is yet to register any case so far. He thus appealed for people to be vigilant to ensure that the country is always free of the virus. “ This does not in any way mean that we should let our guard down,”  he reiterated.

Njie however said the government has put in place measures to prevent occurrence of the deadly virus in the country. “ The government has embarked on and is still pursuing a rigorous campaign to sensitise the population about the problems of Ebola virus,”  he said.