Two have died in anti-Ebola rioting as distrust of Western medicine grows in Sierra Leone, where twenty people a day are now reported as being killed by the virus, and 49 new cases were reported by the country’s government on Monday alone.
The influx of Sierra Leoneans moving from the nation’s dense jungle east towards the capital Freetown accounts for many of the new cases recorded, and have forced the government to take drastic steps to prevent the virus spreading quickly in urban areas. The Guardian reports local sources as saying: “The growing fear has left the public with no choice but to call on the government for Waterloo to be quarantined as was done to other places including Kailahun, Kenema, Bombali, Port Loko and Moyamba districts”.
Sierra Leone, in common with other Ebola-hit countries has been struggling to stem the movement of the infected, and safely treat patients. This has unfortunately led to the infection spreading unnecessarily to health workers, who have been especially hard hit.
The first battalion of British soldiers have been arriving in the country this week, comprising of some 800 medics, engineers and support personnel. They have been tasked with building treatment centres and providing aid while being supported by hospital ship RFA Argus, but may find themselves manning roadblocks, as the fragile security situation deteriorates.
Although the deployment of a large group of trained and experienced biological warfare troops to the country is a boon to the Sierran government, it may do little to calm growing tensions among the populace, among whom superstition and distrust is rife. Building on a narrative that western aid workers are deliberately spreading Ebola while claiming to cure it to gain access to Sierra Leone’s mineral wealth, deadly riots broke out in a diamond-mining town this week.
As medics tried to take blood samples from a local community leader who had contracted the disease, a mob moved in and participated in a pitched battle with security guards protecting the aid workers. Gangs of men marched through the streets shouting “no more Ebola!”, a reference to their belief that it is the result of germ warfare by the West. Ten people were injured and two killed in the confrontation, in which it is believed guns were used to quell unrest.