Thu | Jan 19, 2017

Massive Ebola isolation effort under way

Published:Sunday | September 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
In this photo taken last Friday, Idrissa Kargbo (top right) Sierra Leone's national marathon champion, helps volunteers distribute information on Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. - AP

FREETOWN (AP):

Some residents ran from their homes in Sierra Leone to avoid being trapped during a three-day lockdown to contain the Ebola outbreak, a health worker said yesterday.

This was a minor setback on the second day of a massive effort to confine six million people to their homes.

Nearly 30,000 volunteers and health-care workers fanned out across the country last Friday and yesterday, to distribute soap and information on how to prevent Ebola, which the World Health Organisation says has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 in the region.

The outreach campaign coincided with the sweeping three-day lockdown, so that volunteers could conduct house-to-house searches to identify sick people reluctant or unable to seek treatment for Ebola.

Marathon runner Idrissa Kargbo, 23, is back in Sierra Leone to help the volunteers.

As a boy, Kargbo sprinted through the villages of Sierra Leone on errands for his grandmother and later as a coffee courier. Now, his times have qualified him for races on three continents.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Kargbo said the Freetown residents he'd visited were grateful for whatever information they could get.

"Some people are still denying, but now when you go to almost any house, they say, 'Come inside, come and teach us what we need to do to prevent,'" Kargbo said. "Nobody is annoyed by us."

For Kargbo, spreading Ebola awareness was a welcome break from idleness after the outbreak cut off all opportunities for him to train and compete. He had been planning to run the Liberia Marathon in August, having placed second in the race last year, but it was postponed until at least early 2015 as the outbreak in that country spiralled out of control.

The stadium where he normally trains in Freetown has also been closed, he said, and his work as a coffee courier was put on hold because most of the clients - international NGO workers - have fled the country.