Now that I am back in Sierra Leone, everyone overseas wants to know what it is like here. The countdown to Ebola Free status is well advanced, and all being well (no more cases) the declaration will be made on Saturday 7th November. In the meantime life in Freetown has pretty much returned to normal. The markets are busy, the streets buzzing with okadas (motorbike taxis), poda-podas (minibus taxis) and a large number of new vehicles driven by aid agency workers. I have also noticed a number of new ambulances – a novelty in any state of repair before the crisis. The restrictions on people gathering together have been lifted so the bars and restaurants are busy once more. Sunday night is particularly busy along the beach even though the beach bars have been cleared or relocated to the other side of the beach road.
Some ebola measures are still in place: on entering hotels and offices there are hand sanitising facilities and shaking hands on greeting people is mostly avoided, although this is slowly creeping back. Some roads have been tarmacked since I left, others, like the stretch outside our house have been prepared, but washed away several times during the rains. On dry days the dust thrown up is like fog and covers all surfaces. Thankfully the rains are not quite over, so showers settle the dust temporarily. It also means that the views from the hills are clear, something to savour before the harmattan arrives.
The temperature at this time of year is also a little lower so walking is more enjoyable. We recently walked through Lumley market up Lumley knoll to the former residence of Siaka Stevens which is now a sad relic only occupied by squatters. However we were able to appreciate the wonderful views from the top – a really good choice of location!
It’s always a pleasant surprise to find an agricultural area tucked away behind shops and houses. This is what we found after crossing the golf course while by-passing the main roads; rice, bananas and other crops growing beside a stream. So life goes on in Sierra Leone. Crops are growing, people are trading and the city is humming. After the difficulties of the past year the next phase is on the horizon – strengthening systems and structures to prevent such a crisis in the future.