“The lessons we learned from Ebola: trace, track, isolate. Make sure you involve the community”. Between 2014 to 2016 Sierra Leone grappled with an outbreak of Ebola which killed eleven thousand people across the local region. It’s now recorded its first case of coronavirus. So has its recent history made Sierra Leone better prepared to manage this latest outbreak? The mayor of the capital city Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, was also Director of Planning at the National Ebola Response Centre.
To move forward Freetown now has a plan that has three strategic elements, one is messaging. Wash your hands and social distancing. What if 35% of your population live in slum communities? Then the message needs to be nuanced. Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is telling people to wash their hands, but not alone, also by supporting in providing water. With social distancing, in slum communities there is no luxury of social distancing when there are 15 people living in one room. It is about how you keep your hands to yourself and hand-washing becomes really the key.
This interview is available in audio, and highly recommended: Listen to the full interview here.