Following the declaration of the state of emergency in Sierra Leone, control measures came into effect along all major roads.
Photo: D. Pilar/Welthungerhilfe


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The Ebola epidemic had severe impacts on rural livelihoods, especially in those villages where many victims were infected by the disease. But also in the country as a whole, measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, such as restrictions on movements, trade and gatherings, led to temporary closures of rural markets and to recession in both the formal and informal economic sector. Nevertheless, pro-active measures have mitigated the worst livelihood effects of the crisis, and people are again hopeful for the future.

Epidemiologists locate the origins of the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in the transmission from bats to human beings in the rural settlements along the Guinean Rainforest, a high biodiversity belt in the Mano River Union between Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. A rural population increase of two per cent annually and increasing economic exploitation of natural resources such as iron ore, diamonds, gold and land has sent settlements encroaching into formerly untouched natural reserves and animal habitats. Local authorities, often influenced by international investors and the dream of a prosperous future, rarely integrate environmental protection and management in their development planning, and the increasing human-animal interaction in fragmented landscapes with high deforestation rates could lead to the discovery of new zoonotic viruses. In the case of Ebola, fruit bats thrive in such changing environments along forest edges and have large communal roosts in wooded savannahs, tree hollows and, more recently, in buildings under roofs or overhangs.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa was unprecedented and infected 13,982 people in Sierra Leone, claiming the lives of 3,955 victims.

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