As Sierra Leone celebrates 55 years of Independence, we look back at the 2014 Ebola outbreak and progress made. 4,051–5,115 persons are confirmed to have survived from among 8,706 confirmed cases and 3,590 confirmed deaths in 2015 .
In Sierra Leone, the outbreak began slowly and silently, gradually building up to a burst of cases in late May and early June 2014. Cases then increased exponentially in the last quarter of the year, with November seeing the most dramatic surge. By the first week of December, Sierra Leone surpassed Liberia – reporting the largest cumulative number of cases. The number of new cases reported that week, at nearly 400. There were three times as many as in Guinea and Liberia combined.
As with Guinea and Liberia, the outbreak in Sierra Leone showed how quickly the dynamics of an outbreak could worsen once cases reached the capital cities.
By the end of December 2014, Sierra Leone – with its population of only 6.2 million – had recorded more than 9,000 cases one could no longer deny Ebola as terrible and terrifying disease;
The epidemic killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa; devastating the social sectors in countries that were already among the poorest in the world. Schools and other public services closed, markets shut down as people avoided congregating in fear of the disease spreading. With insurance premiums for international businesses skyrocketing, ships refused to dock, investors cancelled trips and the nascent tourism industry all but shut down.
Latest Key Findings
Use of basic social services continues to increase.
• The use of maternal health care services has increased—the share of households reporting birth in a hospital or clinic increased from 64% in January and February 2015 to 89% in May.
• The majority of school-aged children have returned to school; 87% of rural and urban households that include at least one child aged between 6 and 17 report that they are in school. It is important to note, however, that the findings on usage of public services are likely more representative of better-off households, than the actual nationwide percentages.
The economy continues to improve, but has yet to fully recover.
• Employment rates – including for the self-employed and youth in the Capital Freetown –are returning to pre-Ebola outbreak levels. However, the hours that people work are still below baseline levels, especially in rural areas.
• Many households lack capital to reopen their businesses and non-farm household enterprises; nearly 1/3 of the country’s workforce report lower revenues than before the Ebola crisis.
• Approximately 2/3 of households surveyed continue to be food insecure, but the use of individual coping strategies to mitigate food insecurity has decreased, indicating improved conditions.
• Agriculture is showing signs of improvement. The 2014 harvest, completed between February and May 2014, was comparable to previous yields; sales and hiring of seasonal labour indicate that rural commodity and temporary labour markets are returning to normal.