When the Ebola virus broke out in Sierra Leone barely six months ago, many citizens received the message with diverse dispositions. While some received it as a short-cut to self-enrichment, others received it as the most devastating phenomenon in their life time. Regardless the restless efforts within and without the country to end the dreadful virus, it is still spreading like a wildfire and causing irreparable havocs across the country. Those who have succumbed to it are gone forever. But what is really, really pathetic about it however, is the devastating effects on the lives of survivors and the nation as a whole. Some have lost their life-savings; some have lost their usual sources of income; some have lost their beloved ones; some have lost their breadwinners; some have lost their jobs; some have lost their homes including worthy properties; some have lost their social prides. Sadly enough, many anti-Ebola fighters, including the central government, are only interested now in patients who are admitted at holding centres.
Though quiet but economically viable settlement situated along the Bo Mile 91 high way in the north-southern part of Sierra Leone, residents of Moyamba Junction are living examples of the economic hazards caused by Ebola. Strategically located in the heartland of the country, residents of Moyamba Junction are naturally multilingual as they speak Themne, Mende, Limba, Fulah and Loko which are major tribes in the country. They usually depend on rice farming, vegetable gardening, animal husbandry, gastronomy and petty trading. Every traveller plying the route loved to stop here because the marketing style signifies the wonderful traditional and hospitable nature of Sierra Leoneans. They stopped here to eat traditionally prepared recipes or buy fresh vegetables, grains and fruits. Goat soup was my favourite. Whenever a vehicle breaks here, its passengers would be greeted by scrambling petty traders, mostly youths and women, who permanently depended on the daily petty sales. Unfortunately, the once colourful and overcrowded Moyamba Junction market is no more as a result of Ebola.
Moyamba Junction market was officially shut down by the government few months ago and the town itself quarantined by armed securities for indefinite time, after the township was overran by the dreadful virus claiming dozens of its inhabitants. No unauthorized vehicle is allowed to break within the township at the moment, no new arrival is accepted in and the inhabitants are not allowed to leave for any reason.
According to 48 years old Jariatu Fornah, a restaurant owner who I managed to interview during my brief stopover in the deserted market area after obtaining official permission from the armed guards, the entire township is currently in a limbo as they continue to use their reserved foodstuff without any contingency plan for next farming season. Those who depend on vegetable growing are denied access to their gardens and their crops are now overdue for harvesting. Vegetables such as pepper and garden eggs can no longer be marketed as usual during the forthcoming Christmas season. Restaurant owners who depended on daily sales have ran out of money. Cattle owners have lost almost all their stocks to thieves and armed guards who supposed to protect them.
“The government said Ebola is an aggressive virus and can be only fought aggressively, but the decision to quarantine us indefinitely has brought untold suffering upon our families”, Jariatu explained. “I used to save for my family not less than Le 50.000 (10$ equivalent) for a day and I usually kept it at home because I don’t trust the banks. But the Ebola outbreak has forced me to expend everything including the start capital. So I don’t know how I’m going to reopen my restaurant after the outbreak”, she wondered.
Poor residents of many cities across the country share similar stories. Countless youths have lost their sources of income in wake of the outbreak. Many potential employers have packed and fled the country, business owners downsized their businesses, employers laid off many employees, prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and inflation is soaring on daily basis, thereby reversing the country’s development efforts by 180 degree. All government quarters are now occupied by the war against Ebola. Tertiary students and school pupils have almost lost the 2014/2015 academic year which shall never be recovered again in their life time.
While the war against Ebola continues, what still remain scaring about it is the lack of a true cure and vaccine against it.