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Sierra Leone under lockdown while residents suspected of having Ebola are cordoned off


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(NaturalNews) According to pictures taken by The New York Times, the three day lockdown in Sierra Leone didn't begin as planned, with residents resisting government orders and disregarding volunteers' door-to-door advice. Last Friday, government desperation peaked in Sierra Leone, with officers ordering everyone in the country to remain indoors for three days. Trying to get the Ebola epidemic under control, the country enlisted police officers, soldiers and nearly 30,000 volunteers to go up to each house to educate residents on Ebola. Anyone suspected of having Ebola was to be identified, pulled away from the villages, and cordoned off at a temporary holding center.

Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma's radio address must have been haunting as he delivered the news of the countrywide lockdown. "Some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult, but life is better than these difficulties," he voiced.

But as the lockdown began, it became obvious that the government was limited in mobilizing its army of door to door volunteers. The unpaid volunteers, mostly students, were reluctant to single out Ebola victims in their door-to-door search and had very little if no disinfecting supplies to pass out. With nearly 6 million residences to check in Sierra Leone, volunteers definitely had their work cut out for them.

Police and volunteers going door to door disregarded by Sierra Leone villagers

The unpaid volunteers got off to a late start last Friday. As The New York Times reports, many villages never even saw volunteers. Many of the volunteers wanted to give up after getting no response knocking on several doors. Many of the villagers were uninterested in assistance if there was no soap or chlorine being given out. Some volunteers report seeing contagious victims still frolicking about, not willing to be contained. When some villagers were approached, they appeared visibly dazed.

As soon as victims were identified in the villages, they were to be taken and held at holding centers. In Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, there is no large-scale treatment center. According to reports, it often took many hours for an ambulance to even arrive after a victim was identified. On top of that, proper treatment facilities were hours away still, and also brimming with patients.

Ambulances taking hours to pick up victims

During the first day of the lockdown in Freetown, one woman could be seen lying in a fetal position on the streets in front of some locked-up stores. Volunteers were reluctant to approach, noticing that the woman had a high fever. After waiting for five hours for an ambulance, volunteers nearly gave up hope. "They are not responding; they say they have lots of cases now," said a volunteer named Alhassan Kamara. Many of the volunteers didn't even have the proper protective gear or even something as simple as chlorine to disinfect with, so many shied away from contact with the severely ill. Going door to door to warn people is about all the volunteers were capable of, and it wasn't working as planned.

If an ambulance did make it to a victim, there wasn't much that could be done. At the treatment centers, "There were not enough beds, space," said Dr. Dan Lucey, an American volunteer working at an Ebola holding center in Freetown. Dr. Lucey reported that patients were being turned away and driven up to four hours away to be treated in different hospitals. "When you first see this, you say this is totally intolerable. It can't be this bad," he said after returning home. "It was an incredible, searing experience not like anything I've ever seen."

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