I have been in Sierra Leone for a month and a half and during my time here I have travelled across the north and west of the country and met many people from various backgrounds, both civil and military. The country itself is beautiful with mountains and palm trees in the west and flatter sparser bush land further inland.
Despite its natural beauty in 2014 the country became the centre of attention across the globe as it was hit by an Ebola outbreak, which has killed over 3600 people to date.
What astonishes me is the people’s spirit and resolve to not only embrace the aid, which the international community has given, but also how they help their selves through social mobilisation in order to stand united in the battle against the disease. The countries infrastructure is not as robust as that of more developed countries, nor is the education system, but that does not mean they do not know what needs to be done.
The British Department for International Development (DfID), UK Aid, the British Military and other None Governmental Organisations (NGOs) may have set up treatment facilities and control measures but it is the local people who are doing all the real work. We the taxpayer and fundraisers have merely provided the platform and the launch pad on which to run operations to tackle the disease.
It must also be noted that the country is not only religious, but that an age-old spiritual culture runs deep within the veins of its people. This has lead to illegal burials and washing of infected bodies as part of the victim’s rights of passage. These practices are becoming less and less through education from NGOs, the government and religious leaders supported by the organisation FOCUS 1000.
The West African country gets its name from the hills that surround what is now Freetown, which in 1462 were named “Serra Lyoa”, or “Lion Mountains” by the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Cintra. The country covers over 27,699 square miles and has a population of over six million people with over one million of those living in the capital. The main religion is Islam followed by Christianity and unlike other parts of the world the two religions live and thrive together in harmony.
Sierra Leone is home to the third largest natural harbour in the world and the country has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold, and has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. Despite this natural wealth, 70% of its people live in poverty.
In the seventeenth century the British founded the Royal African Company establishing trading posts on the islands of Bunce and York and a century later over 40,000 slaves were returned to Freetown after the abolition of slavery in England.
The 90's brought the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel war that led to the intervention of the International Community led by the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). The war has been officially over since 2002 and the process of rebuilding Sierra Leone and re-establishing its failed institutions is currently underway.
TWO SIERRA LEONEAN FEMALES WALK PAST A SIGN DISPLAYING THE WORDS "STOP EBOLA"
A MAN WALKS PAST A NATIONAL YOUTH COALITION BANNER
A COUPLE SELL FRUIT IN FRONT OF A PAINTED WALL DISPLAYING THE WORDS "EBOLA STOPS WITH ME"
A MAN WASHES HIS HANDS AT ONE OF THE MANY HAND WASH STATIONS DOTTED AROUND SIERRA LEONE
A COUPLE OF YOUNG MALES GIVE A 'THUMBS UP' AS WE DRIVE PAST
A SMALL SHOP PAINTED WITH THE UNION FLAG
THE HILLS BEHIND THE KERRY TOWN TREATMENT UNIT (KTTU)
A MAN AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD IN FRONT OF PALM TREES
A HUT DWARFED BY THE HILLS BEHIND
A MAN PUSHES A BICYCLE PAST A GROUP OF HOUSES AND SHACKS
PEOPLE QUEUE ON THE CORNER OF A STREET, A SMALL SHOP CAN BE SEEN PAINTED WITH A UNION FLAG
A COUPLE OF SMALL BOYS PLAY FOOTBALL TOGETHER OUTSIDE OF A CHURCH
THE SUNSET BACK LIGHTS THE DUST DOWN A ROAD OUTSIDE OF THE NATIONAL EBOLA RESPONSE CENTRE (NERC) IN FREETOWN
THE WORDS "DO NOT KEEP SICK PERSON AT HOME IT COULD BE EBOLA" ARE PAINTED ON A BLUE TARPAULIN COVERED HUT BEHIND A GROUP OF WOMEN
ONE OF SIERRA LEONE'S RIVERS TAKEN FROM A BRIDGE
A COUPLE OF YOUNG GIRLS CARRY A 'COOL BOX' TOGETHER
CHILDREN PLAY FOOTBALL ON A BEACH IN FREETOWN
AN AERIAL PHOTO OF LEICESTER IN FREETOWN
CHILDREN CARRYING TUBS OF WATER FOR THEIR FAMILIES