A former government minister in Sierra Leone, Tuesday said he has lost nine members of his family to the Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa.
Lansana Nyallah told state television that the dead included his brothers and sisters in the eastern village of Daru, at the epicentre of the outbreak.
“To those who still believe that Ebola does not exist, please take heed,” the former youth and education minister told the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation.
“Nine members of my family including my brothers and sisters are now dead from the virus,” said Nyallah, who was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle last year after several years in President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government.
“One of them was an imam who was also a radio journalist working for a community radio station in Daru,” he said. “Our house is now empty as no one lives there,” he added.
Ebola has claimed 273 lives in Sierra Leone. Overall almost 900 people have been killed by the virus. Most of those infected in Sierra Leone are those, who have ignored warnings not to touch the bodies of the dead during funeral rituals.
Many indigenous people living in the forested border areas that straddle Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea believe the virus was introduced deliberately by outsiders, while others say it is a fictional invention by the West, designed to subjugate them.
“The confusion about Ebola which created the resistance from some people was due to the earlier messages which were both confusing and unreliable,” Nyallah told the station.
“We were told that Ebola had no cure but were not told about the chances of survival if one reports early. We have now learnt more about the disease, especially about the body-to-body contact which increases transmission,” he added.
Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency last week, quarantining Ebola-hit areas and cancelling foreign trips by ministers. The country observed a “stay at home day” on Monday as the government recalibrated its response to the outbreak.