From bad to worse: Border closings intensify existing problems in Sierra Leone

August 20, 2014

Above photo: This scene of typical foot and auto traffic on a pre-Ebola day in Freetown hasĀ been replaced by virtually empty streets as a nation in crisis tries to stop the outbreak.

While it is understandable that the government of Sierra Leone is taking drastic measures to stem the spread of Ebola, including closing schools, cordoning the Kailahun and Kenema districts and restricting public gatherings, these efforts will put additional pressure on an already distressed food system in which people struggle to eat enough. Economic activity in Freetown and other centers of commerce has been decimated, prices for food and other essential items are increasing, and the situation will only worsen until the outbreak can be slowed and stopped.

At a national level, Guinea and Liberia have closed their borders with Sierra Leone. Within Sierra Leone, the cordoned area now covers about 25% of the country. With the exception of this area, our contacts report that most district borders remain open within the country, but checkpoints have been established at these borders where officers are scanning body temperatures of vehicle passengers to determine whether individual passengers may cross district boundaries.

In advance of additional or absolute restrictions at a district level, Sullay recently advanced funds to a banking center in the district where we work. Sullay has made the necessary arrangements to transfer and access from this banking location any additional funds we send to Sierra Leone should the Ebola outbreak continue for some time. This will also allow Sullay to reduce his exposure by carrying less on the road in this time of distress. We want to ensure that our employees have an opportunity and incentive to work and be paid as long as they remain healthy and able. For Just Hope and many other organizations with an interest in serving the people of Sierra Leone, these are troubling and frustrating circumstances that generate a sense of powerlessness. While we wait for an end to this outbreak that strikes a nation still reeling from the tragedy of war, we remain diligent to support those we currently serve and we pray for them and their countrymen. Please join us.