Closed borders and travel bans in Ebola-stricken countries are exacerbating food shortages and leading to preventable deaths, a Red Cross aid worker says.
Amanda McClelland, an aid worker in Sierra Leone, told The World Today restrictions were driving up prices of food, fuel and basic supplies and frustrating aid efforts.
“We’ve seen a number of shops close, a number of industries, there’s a mining industry here and a road construction company doing a major highway and those international teams have pulled out,” Ms McClelland said.
“We’re unable to bring international staff in.
“We’ve had staff not be able to get clearance to leave their country or that we’ve had to isolate for three weeks after they’ve worked for us somewhere else before they’re able to travel back to their own counties.”
Ms McClelland said hospital closures meant people were also dying from other diseases.
“While this is happening, no one is going to the clinic, no one is going to the hospital for normal procedures, for malaria, for pneumonia, for childbirth, and we’re starting to hear more and more reports of those patients also dying in the communities because they can’t access normal health care, so this goes well beyond those 1,300 [Ebola deaths],” Ms McClelland said.
Damaging rumours of Ebola remedies have also taken hold.
“The latest one this week was a religious leader in Sierra Leone sent out a group social media text message to say that he’d had a premonition and that if people washed in warm salt water and read verses from the Bible at 2:00am in the morning, that they would be protected from Ebola,” Ms McClelland said.
“And our best estimate is around 1 million to 1.5 million people got up in the middle of the night and washed in salt water, including many of my staff.”
So far Ebola has killed 1,350 people in West Africa.
In this outbreak, 50 per cent of people have overcome the disease with basic treatment, including continuous rehydration and nutrition.
On top of that, the US aid workers also received an experimental serum containing a cocktail of antibodies designed to block the virus.
Doctors in Spain treated a priest with the same serum but he died, while three affected doctors in Liberia have received the serum treatment and are said to be improving.