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Thousands break quarantine in Sierra Leone in desperate search for food

Ebola quarantine

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(NaturalNews) Even as health authorities begin to get a handle on the Ebola outbreak in the West African nations of Liberia and Guinea, where it began several months ago, the virus is spreading uncontrollably in neighboring Sierra Leone, as conditions there worsen all the way around.

In fact, as The Associated Press reports, lack of food is causing thousands of Sierra Leoneans who have been sealed off from the general public to break Ebola quarantine. According to several aid agencies, food deliveries are not reaching them, so they have been forced to go look for something to eat.

The AP notes that large sections of the country have been sealed to prevent the deadly virus from spreading. Many have been ordered to remain in their homes. The Sierra Leone government, with assistance from the United Nations' World Food Program, has been tasked with providing food and other services to quarantined residents. However, there are many "nooks and crannies" in the stricken West African country that are being overlooked, according to Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid's Sierra Leone representative.

More health facilities needed

The AP further noted:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 5,000 people, and authorities have gone to extreme lengths to bring it under control, including the quarantines in Sierra Leone. Similar restrictions have also been used in Liberia and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

That said, there is evidence that health authorities are making some progress against the outbreak. Aboubakar Sidiki Diakite, with the Guinean health ministry, said during a recent visit to Paris that the situation is improving in his nation, thanks to international aid.

However, many more treatment centers and medical teams are still necessary in order to fully turn the corner on the outbreak, according to World Health Organization officials, who spoke in Geneva last week. Currently, there are 16 treatment centers in operation, with 58 more being planned. To staff them, however, will require as many as 500 foreign healthcare workers and 4,000 local ones, the AP reported.

The president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, said in a recent address to political leaders in the country that ordinary citizens would also have to step up and do more for themselves. He defended the tough measures taken by him to control the spread of the disease and called on all Sierra Leoneans to end any dangerous behavior that worsens the spread of the virus, like secret burials where infected corpses are washed, or when unprotected people touch those who are sick.

"We have to take the sick out and take the responsibility with firmness," he said. "We must end Ebola now."

Spread worsening across Sierra Leone

As public health officials have stated that the heavy-handed restrictions are likely necessary to bring about control over the worst Ebola outbreak on record, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group for aid organizations, has also warned that they were cutting food deliveries to thousands.

"The quarantine of Kenema, the third largest town in Sierra Leone, is having a devastating impact on trade -- travel is restricted so trucks carrying food cannot freely drive around," the committee said in a statement, according to the AP. "Food is becoming scarce, which has led to prices increasing beyond the reach of ordinary people."

Kamara of Christian Aid observed that, because food and services were not reaching them, thousands who are being monitored for signs of the infection, and who should be remaining out of the public sector at their homes, are nevertheless venturing out in search of food, which is potentially contaminating many more Sierra Leoneans.

And, she added, as infections continue to multiply exponentially, that makes it even more difficult for the government to monitor, treat and provide services to the people.

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