Residents erect roadblocks on the street to pressure the authorities to remove corpses infected with the Ebola virus from the Aberdeen district of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Picture: Josephus Olu-Mammah
Residents erect roadblocks on the street to pressure the authorities to remove corpses infected with the Ebola virus from the Aberdeen district of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Picture: Josephus Olu-Mammah

Clashes in Sierra Leone over Ebola dead

By Josephus Olu-Mammah And James Harding Giahyue Time of article published Oct 15, 2014

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Freetown/Monrovia - Sierra Leone security forces on Tuesday clashed with angry residents of a densely populated neighbourhood in the capital Freetown who were protesting delays in removing the corpse of a suspected Ebola victim, witnesses said.

Security forces fired tear gas and rounds from AK-47 assault rifles to disperse the crowd that had barricaded the street in the Aberdeen neighbourhood in protest, residents and video footage from Reuters television showed.

Sierra Leone alongside Liberia and Guinea are the worst-hit countries by the Ebola epidemic that has killed 4 447 people from 8 914 cases since March.

It has spread to Nigeria and Senegal.

One case has been reported in Spain and another in the United States.

The World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday that the viral haemorrhagic fever was still spreading in the three hardest-hit countries and new cases could reach between 5 000 and 10 000 new cases a week by December.

In a visit to Liberia where the country's transport minister put herself into quarantine after her driver died from the disease, Rajir Shah, the head of USAID promised more US funding to countries in the region to tackle the crisis.

“These new resources will enable the more rapid construction of Ebola treatment units, help expand critical training for healthcare workers and further support teams to mobilize on a nationwide basis,” Shah said.

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende also announced additional funding to fight the disease during the joint press conference with Shah and Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Healthcare systems in the affected countries have been strained by the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Patients are dying on the street and ambulances, medical staff, hospital beds and basic health kits are in short supply.

Residents in Freetown's Aberdeen said the body of the young woman who was suspected to have died from Ebola had been left unattended in the street for two days.

The government of Sierra Leone was not immediately available to comment.

The Reuters video showed the corpse. It also showed another woman, a suspected Ebola patient, sitting about 100 metres from the body.

It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties from the clash.

Jina Saffah Mojeh, a police assistant inspector general, told Reuters television that the residents had blocked the road and threw stones at the police.

“So I ordered my men to clear the road,” Mojeh said.

“I have ordered my men to look out for those who are sending missiles so we can arrest them. They cannot take the law into their hand.”

Aberdeen resident William Sao Lamin said residents were frustrated by the slow response from health authorities to pick up suspected Ebola cases and remove corpses of victims, fearing the disease will continue to spread.

“Because of the late response of the Ministry of Health officials people are now getting contact with their family members who are suspected cases, who are dead cases,” Lamin told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Liberia's Transport Minister Angeline Cassell-Bush put herself into voluntary quarantine on Tuesday after her driver died of Ebola at the weekend, the ministry said in a statement.

The minister is the second senior government official in Liberia to place themselves in voluntary quarantine after the chief medical officer took the same step in September when her assistant died of the deadly virus.

The statement said the deceased driver had made no contact with the minister, but she had decided to go into quarantine as a further measure to fight the disease.

In Sierra Leone, a medic in a peacekeeping training centre in the capital also tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, a spokesman for the West African nation's armed forces said on Tuesday.

Colonel Michael Samoura had earlier told Reuters the infected man belonged to a battalion of about 870 soldiers due to be deployed as peacekeepers with the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

However, he later said the medic was not part of the force.

The contingent would not be quarantined but could be placed under observation, Samoura added.

“We cannot rule that out but really there is no cause for alarm as far as the peacekeepers are concerned, because the peacekeepers have their own area where they are encamped.

They have their billets far from where this individual was operating,” he said.

A second senior military official, who earlier had said the contingent would face a 21-day quarantine, declined to comment further when contacted by Reuters.

The battalion was due to relieve Sierra Leone's contingent already participating in the mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, in July, but their deployment was delayed due to administrative issues, Samoura said. - Reuters

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