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“You know about African solidarity – usually when someone dies, people visit you, but when we lost one and then two, three, four members of our family, nobody came to visit us, and we realized we were being kept at bay because of fear.”
~ An unnamed victim to BBC
Sierra Leone, a country in the western region of Africa, went through one of the darkest times in human history when nearly two years ago, its first case of Ebola was reported. Ebola is a disease caused by the virus Ebolaviruses, first identified in 1976. In 2014, it began to spread severely through Guinea to other adjacent parts of West Africa. The fact that its early symptoms are as innocent as fatigue, fever, headaches, and so on makes the disease fatal by delaying its detection.
Being one of the worst affected areas of the disease, Sierra Leone saw a considerable proportion of its population vanish from the face of the Earth, with nearly four thousand deaths recorded, coming only second to Liberia.
The virus’s reliance on human touch as a means of its continued existence disabled physical contact between people. The most vulnerable among these were the volunteers and the caretakers of those suffering from the disease. As a result, a drastic change could be seen in even the most trivial day-to-day activities of people in the area regarding their greeting patterns, eating habits, etc.
Moreover, the horror of getting affected by such a deadly disease led the children living in Sierra Leone to withdraw from going to school and thus lose their precious time of gaining an education. Now, after the death of a major chunk of the young population, many of these drop-outs may not even be able to go back to studying, being forced to instead look for various odd jobs.
The tourism industry of Sierra Leone also experienced a dreadful breakdown due to the fast-spreading epidemic. People were scared to such an extent that innumerable tour plans were canceled all over Africa, resulting in a steep deterioration of the Continent’s economy.
A sigh of relief and joy echoed throughout the world when, on 7th November, WHO declared Sierra Leone as an Ebola-free nation. This news re-enlightened the almost diminished ray of hope for the few left in the area. ‘The invisible enemy’ that had enslaved its residents is now no more, bringing about a welcome transformation in the dead-beat environment.
Tourism is being seen as a major force for the betterment of the lost revenues over the last few months. It will also have a positive psychological effect on the native residents as the inflow of tourists from across the world would help them overcome the trauma they have faced. It would give them the realization that something that had haunted their lives and seemed so inevitable has finally come to an end. A sense of it has definitely begun to sink in, as was evident from a recent video that went viral on the internet that showed people rapping and dancing to the ‘bye-bye Ebola’ song.
However, the unfortunate incident of the epidemic has inscribed itself in the memories of all those who have played witness to it, in person or through various media. For the people of Sierra Leone, it came as a black hole that sucked in almost an entire generation, leaving its future in jeopardy.