Sierra Leone had recorded around half of the cases in the Ebola outbreak that has infected 28,600 people and claimed 11,300 lives since December 2013. A nation is considered free of human-to-human Ebola transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday, November 7, 2015, that Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone has beaten the epidemic that killed almost 4,000 of its people and plunged the economy into recession.
Health experts agree that the real death toll is almost certainly significantly higher than the official data, which has been skewed by the under-reporting of deaths in several probable Ebola cases. 'Save the Children' sounded an alarm over the long-term impact on 1.8 million children who missed nine months of school, pointing to a 'significant spike in adolescent pregnancies'. The Ebola crisis took a devastating toll on primary health services and immunization programs, with the deaths of 221 medical staff, 5% of frontline doctors and 7% of nurses and midwives.
‘The WHO announced that Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone has beaten the epidemic that killed almost 4,000 of its people and plunged the economy into recession. The World Bank estimates that Sierra Leone will lose at least $1.4 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015.’
After several false-starts, Sierra Leone's countdown finally began on September 25, 2015, three weeks after the WHO had declared neighboring Liberia Ebola-free following 4,800 deaths there. Guinea, where around 2,500 people died, still has a handful of cases and Sierra Leone has announced heightened security and health screening at their shared border. The WHO revealed that Guinea is also monitoring 382 possible contacts of known cases, 141 of them deemed 'high risk'.
Palo Conteh, the head of Sierra Leone's Ebola response, said, "There are no plans for 'an elaborate celebration' of the country's Ebola-free status." The WHO is due to deliver a formal declaration in Freetown of the end of the Ebola epidemic while President Ernest Bai Koroma will address aid agencies, healthcare professionals and other key workers. Koroma drew criticism from the international community for a number of lock-downs confining millions to their homes, measures that which were deemed punitive and self-defeating.
The World Bank estimates that Sierra Leone will lose at least $1.4 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result, leading to an 'unprecedented' GDP contraction of more than 20%.