Sierra Leone remains one of the west African nations hardest hit by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the region. To emphasize the scale of the operation the Leonean government has undertaken to attempt to stop the virus in its tracks, officials announced this week that 8,478 households have been specifically quarantined since May.
That number comes from Director of Communications in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation Sidi Yayah Tunis, according to the nation’s largest newspaper, the Awareness Times. These are not believed to be households that fall in quarantined neighborhoods, but homes that were individually selected for quarantine due to the presence of the Ebola virus in that home.
In addition to the staggering number, Director Tunis reminded the public once again that “everything relating to providing service for Ebola is free as it is widely complained that some health workers and members of the burial team request for monies.” In addition to struggling with finding workers to help clean up and contain the virus, it appears that many are asking citizens for money, as the government struggles to pay workers.
Sierra Leone has employed various quarantining methods to try to keep the virus from consuming its capital, Freetown, as well as salvage rural communities that are more difficult for government officials to reach. In August, Sierra Leone began using the medieval cordon sanitaire method of containing entire communities, in which no one and no items are allowed to enter or exit the area. Fearing the potential of famine, the government implemented a less strict version of the cordon, which would allow for food to enter affected areas.
Starvation has affected areas of Sierra Leone, however–not through quarantine, but through the sheer strength of the virus. Some communities have been so devastated by Ebola, The New York Times reported in August, that few are left to procure food or ship it from town to town.
By September, Sierra Leone had significantly extended its attempts to keep Ebola from consuming the nation. Reportedly, a total of two million people were affected by the latest round of regional quarantines, as three separate districts of the country were essentially forced into lockdown. At one point in September, the nation shut down for three days completely; individuals were not allowed to leave their homes as health workers went door to door trying to collect the dead and clean up areas where contaminants remained.