FREETOWN: Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has unveiled a post-Ebola “battle plan” to help the West African country turn the page on the devastating epidemic. “Beyond the immediate nine-month recovery period, we will commence a two-year plan during which we must resolve to restore Sierra Leone to the path to prosperity,” Koroma said in a statement released Friday. “We will work to reinvigorate the private sector as a source of growth, create jobs and livelihoods in our economy,” he said, emphasizing the need to improve roads and market access. “Access to energy and water will be high priorities for the next few years,” he added.
The program will be funded by more than $804 million (730 million euros) earmarked for Sierra Leone at this month’s UN Pledging Conference on Ebola. Donors pledged a total of $3.4 billion for the three countries ravaged by the Ebola epidemic- Liberia and Guinea as well as Sierra Leone. Experts at the UN conference urged the three countries to focus on rebuilding health care systems, reopening schools, supporting agriculture and restoring government services that were overwhelmed by the crisis.
The worst Ebola outbreak in history produced some 27,600 infections in the three countries, of which 11,253 were fatal, according to official data widely seen as an underestimate. Sierra Leone has reported 3,941 deaths. In announcing the “battle plan”, Koroma said it was critical “not only to finally defeat the virus and get to zero (cases), but also to ensure that the virus stays defeated.” Koroma said 10 of the country’s 14 districts have reported no new cases of Ebola in the past 90 days; three of those have seen no new outbreaks since the beginning of 2015. The health ministry said in its latest update that there are currently only three reported cases of the virus nationwide. Tonkolili in the north of the country reported one new case of Ebola on Saturday, ending a 150-day run of no new infections, health officials said yesterday. —AFP