On May 25th 2014, the government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation declared an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone following the laboratory confirmation of a suspected case from Kailahun District. The District is located in the eastern region of Sierra Leone, sharing borders with Guinea and Liberia.
This outbreak appears to be a spillover from the on-going outbreak in Guinea and Liberia since March 2014. As of 4th September, 2014 the country recorded a total number of 1,179 Ebola confirmed cases; 404 confirmed deaths nationwide.
The Government has been working with partners to establish and implement response measures for EVD outbreak. Despite the implementation of these measures the EVD outbreak continues to spread in the country.
The President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in his initial broadcast to the nation on 30th July, 2014 proclaimed a state of Public Health Emergency to enable the government and its partners take more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak. He established a Presidential task force to champion the implementation of various measures to fight the disease.
Pursuant to Section 29 (5) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991, the President announced the flowing regulations to complement the measures already in force.
On August 4, 2014 a National Stay Home by all citizens was observed throughout the country to reflect on the impact of the Ebola disease. Also, during the month of August 2014, Parliament passed into law the Public Health Amendment Act, 2014 to allow enforcement of new Public Health Regulations.
The government has ordered the use of Chlorine solution for the washing of hands prior to access to all public facilities including banks, insurance facilities, telecom company facilities, health facilities and other corporate and private offices as well as in homes. The situation has become very alarming. The government therefore intends to shut down the country for three days (19th - 21st September, 2014) for people to stay home in order to carry out a nationwide house-to-house check that would employ 21,000 trained personnel who would have to detect early signs of the Ebola disease.
The above notwithstanding, three senior medical doctors have died as a result of being infected with the Ebola virus during the course of their work.
In addition to this, about forty five front line nurses and other EOC attendants have been infected and died of the virus at the time of the preparation of this report. It is sad to see loved ones die and buried like paupers with no family members allowed to see their remains. It’s a serious matter though!
SOCIO - ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF COMBATING THE EBOLA DISEASE
IMPACT OF EBOLA OUTBREAK ON THE LABOUR MOVEMENT IN SIERRA LEONE
The Ebola epidemic in the country has accounted for enormous negative impact on all facets of life including the Labour movement. The Labour movement has been hard hit as workers in both the formal and informal sectors are adversely affected in several ways. The informal economy workers have been affected in terms of being exposed to the disease due to the type of work they do. A good number of their members have been victims of the virus and accounted for several deaths.
Specifically, the Sierra Leone Traders Union has recorded a death toll of 87 as of 14th August, 2014 countrywide. However, the union continues to monitor causality rate and figures on its membership in all regions across the country.
The normal daily and weekly marketing days/activities at specific places have been banned nationwide by Government. There is also minimal access to funds from the banks due to the restricted opening and closing hours of banking operations.
The epidemic has also impacted on the Commercial motor bike Riders whose operation has been limited from 7:00am to 7:00pm. This means a considerable loss of income to them.
The motor drivers are also not left out of the group of affected workers in the country by the outbreak of the Ebola disease. As a result of the restriction of movement of people from one place to the other and the continued quarantining of places, drivers can no longer commute passengers from place to place.
As a result of the effects of the Ebola epidemic on both the commercial motor bike riders and motor drivers especially the death of their members, have jointly on 8th September, 2014 issued out a press statement pointing out the total number of deaths (Bike Riders 14 and Motor Drivers 28) countrywide among their ranks with an intention of halting their operations for two weeks.
The artisanal fishermen have recorded low catch because of limited period of staying at sea. In spite of this, there has also been a huge spoilage of the limited catch due to low demand as people’s movement has been restricted and market centres are not fully operational in the country.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, the mostly affected sector in terms of exposure, deaths, displacement, and stigmatization by communities is the health sector. According to statistics so far, a total number of 48 health workers (nurses, Laboratory technicians, porters, burial teams and including three Doctors) have died. The health sector has been colossally devastated with low morale among health workers.
There are reported cases of harassment and forceful eviction of health workers from homes by landlord for being considered as Ebola virus carriers.
In carrying out their work in combating the Ebola virus and care giving to infected persons, health workers are constrained by inadequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Where they are being supplied, cases of substandard PPE have been reported and this has accounted for health personnel contracting the virus in the course of their duty. As the Ebola disease is a new phenomenon in the country, it required training for health personnel in handling affected persons. Hence, the high toll of death on health personnel of recent times.
The Municipal Workers Union has also recorded 25 deaths of members in two districts.
Memberships of unions operating in the manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, fisheries and mines have suffered either redundancy or pay cuts. The outbreak of the epidemic has accounted for the partial or complete closure of some business institutions that normally provide employment for their members. According to the General Secretary of the Security Union, KBJ Conteh, the redundancy rate of their members has reached about 45% since March, 2014.
The outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone since May 2014 has also hard hit the tourism industry adversely. This epidemic has accounted for about 98% of checkouts in all hotels nationwide due to the cancellation of flights from and to Sierra Leone. The obvious effect of this in the tourism industry is “bad business,’ to be simply put. It has increased the cost of running a hotel per day, yet the income is nothing to write home about.
The above notwithstanding, the Sierra Leone traders Union is seeking support in the following areas:
In the present precarious and life threatening circumstance we are faced with in Sierra Leone, we are requesting StreetNet International to assist the union in mobilizing financial resources to help the union carry out more education on preventive measures, and also to enable it render more humanitarian assistance to its members and families that have already been quarantined.
As partners in development, we are looking forward to StreetNet and its international funding partners to extend assistance to the Sierra Leone Traders Union during these most challenging moments as a collective effort to eradicate this deadly disease that has and continues to ravage the West African sub-region.
Thank you so immensely as we anticipate your generous assistance.
Aaron A. Boima
National Secretary General - Sierra Leone Traders Union
National Coordinator: Informal Sector Coordinating Secretariat - Sierra Leone Labour Congress.
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INDIA. DP is irreparable, scrap it, say activists. Times of India (10 April 2015).
TANZANIA. College plans to identify trade opportunities for hawkers. Daily News (10 April 2015) by Ludovick Kazoka.
INDIA. No street vendors, cycle rickshaws in Lajpat Nagar market: NGT. Zee News (8 April 2015) by PTI. New Delhi:
BOTSWANA. EDD is the way to go. Mmegi Online (8 April 2015).
USA. Five Courses: Hawkers' street food flair & more. Creative Loafing Tampa Bay (8 April 2015) by Meaghan Habuda.
INDIA. Hawkers may be allowed near Rishi Kapoor, Anil Ambani's Pali Hill residences. DNA India (8 April 2015) by Amrita Nayak Dutta.
ABU-DHABI. Abu Dhabi Municipality raid scares away street hawkers. Gulf News (7 April 2015).
SINGAPORE. Hawker centres to be spruced up with murals and art installations. Channel News Asia (5 April 2015) by Vimita Mohandas.
MALAYSIA. 'Development will be inclusive'. The Star Online (3 April 2015).
INDIA. 'Street vendors denied right to livelihood'. The Hindu (1 April 2015) by K.N. Umesh.
StreetNet International is an alliance of street vendors. It was launched in Durban, South Africa, in November 2002.
Membership-based organizations (unions, co-operatives or associations) directly organizing street vendors, market vendors and/or hawkers among their members, are entitled to affiliate to StreetNet International.
The aim of StreetNet is to promote the exchange of information and ideas on critical issues facing street vendors, market vendors and hawkers (i.e. mobile vendors) and on practical organizing and advocacy strategies