After the country was struck by the Ebola virus disease in May 2014, Sierra Leone Saturday 7 November was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO) at a colorful ceremony at the Bintumani International conference Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown
The WHO made this declaration after the country has gone through the forty-two days incubation period without registering a case of Ebola. The declaration was made by WHO country representative Dr. Andres Nordstrom.
Delivering the keynote address, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma praised Almighty God for the end of Ebola in the country. He described the heroism of Ebola survivors as inspiring as he traversed the length and breathe of the country to destroy, what he described as an "evil virus". He commended the people of Sierra Leone for complying with the difficult regulations and byelaws instituted to help break the back of the outbreak. Sierra Leone did not know about the virus initially, he said, and noted that 221 health workers died of the virus.
Special tribute to health workers and other Ebola workers who paid the ultimate price to eradicate Ebola from Sierra Leone was made by the president. He also paid tribute to 35,000 Sierra Leoneans who served in various capacities in the fight against Ebola. "We also owe our victory in the fight against Ebola to the extraordinary role played by members of the international community and development partners," he maintained.
The considerable progress made in treating patients was also pointed out by President Koroma, and furthered that "we declared a state of emergency because the very existence of our state was at stake".
He disclosed that the State of Public Health Emergency will be removed after consultation with parliament and the security sector. The country is now prepared in the event of any re-emergence of Ebola or other viral haemorrhagic diseases to respond adequately, he stressed, and admonished the public to continue to abide by the chiefdom byelaws and call 117 to report the sick or deaths in communities across the country.
President Koroma went on to acknowledge the role of traditional leaders in support of reforms put in place by government to break the chain of transmission of the disease, and called on them to institute safe practices, including safe burials in their activities and communities.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) Major (Rtd) Paolo Conteh said he took over the fight against Ebola when the country was recording thousands of cases monthly. The virus, he said, was spreading viciously in communities because there were no systems in place to detect the disease quickly and also the lack of labs was also excruciating in the fight to stem the spread of the disease.
"We will continue to collaborate with our partners even as we prepare to embark on community surveillance across the country for the next 90 days," he stated. The NERC CEO profusely thanked the burial teams, swabbers, contact tracers, social mobilizers, nurses and doctors and all those who played their part to eradicate Ebola out of this country. He also spoke against the stigmatization of Ebola survivors. He urged male survivors to keep their partners safe and encouraged them to continue hygiene practices and remain vigilant.
Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr Abu Bakarr Fofanah described the fight against Ebola as long, winding, painful and thorny, noting that Sierra Leoneans had to swallow the bitter pill of not caring for their sick, the dead and even suffered the indignity of succumbing to series of checks at international airports. With all of these setbacks, the people of Sierra Leone fought the fight and have come out successful, he noted.
Minister Fofanah praised President Koroma as Chief Social Mobilizer in the fight against Ebola, and commended the patriotism showed by the people, putting aside parochial and narrow interests in favour of the national interest.
Bintou Keita, on behalf of the United Nations praised President Koroma for his leadership which guided the response against the Ebola outbreak. "Salone People dem una do well," she said amidst rapturous applause.
The people of Sierra Leone can now go back to do the things they used to do to move the country forward, she went on. She joined previous speakers to thank the people of Sierra Leone for their resilience and the many health workers and volunteers who helped to end this fight against Ebola. She assured of the UN's continued commitment to support Sierra Leone in its implementation of the post Ebola recovery programme.
Marshall Elliott of DFID paid glowing tribute to the effective leadership demonstrated by His Excellency President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma in the fight against Ebola. He also commended the international community, thousands of Ebola respondents and volunteers who have all stood firm to ensure Ebola is eradicated from Sierra Leone.
Mr. Elliot went on to laud the resilience of the people of Sierra Leone in their determination to put the horrible disease to the back burner. He referred to the over 200 health care workers who lost their lives to Ebola as heroes and heroines.