“Those who are lucky, have survived the virus but have been stigmatised, left to stand alone, to carry their pains, their trauma and loneliness,” Isaac Bayoh, an Ebola quarantine and awareness worker in Sierra Leone.
The statement above aptly summarises the grim situation healthcare workers face in the current fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. As of 11 January 2015, a total of 843 healthcare workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in all affected and previously affected countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 500 HCWs have died. 221 (44.2%) of those were Sierra Leonean healthcare workers. Many others are dying, in some cases even unreported. The challenge however, remains for those alive and still in the frontline.
Healthcare workers are the spine of a health system in any country, developed or developing. However, in many developing countries such as Sierra Leone, a less-than-holistic approach is often taken to ensuring that they are adequately supported to perform effectively. The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) unearthed deep-seated problems of an already ailing heath infrastructure in the country. As was expected, healthcare workers at the frontline bore the brunt of the disease. Many have died but many more are exposed to the risk of contracting Ebola, as well as the risk of post-traumatic stress, stigmatisation from society and eventual isolation. According to an article by the World Bank communications team in Sierra Leone, the ferocity of Ebola on health workers has driven many underground.
Sierra Leone is now at a critical juncture when it must address major pillars of the health system in order to achieve widespread and sustainable coverage of high-impact health care.
The problems are complex, numerous and longstanding. The first major problem is psychological and non-clinical. There is a high death rate among Sierra Leonean healthcare workers. Many are under-reported or even unreported, depending on where they happen. Healthcare workers witness the death and neglect of their colleagues and friends on an almost daily basis.
At the moment, the priority of nearly all the interventions is to provide clinical and logistical support. There is little or no significant effort to address the looming problem of psycho-social neglect for the country’s healthcare workers. They are left to cope by themselves. This should not be the case.
EngAyde believes that the solution is for long-term and sustainable intervention that Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad can actively participate in and take ownership of. We are therefore developing a strategy that seeks to outline and recommend cost-effective and appropriate actions that Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora and people interested in the country could take part in.
Please stay connected with us to learn more about our advocacy work for Sierra Leone’s Health Care Workers.
-  Life on the Ebola frontline: ‘Survivors are left alone to carry their pain’
 WHO Ebola Situation report, http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/situation-reports/en/ (accessed 20th January 2015).