Africa Desk: Residents of Sierra Leone’s capital held a candlelit vigil and celebrations to mark the end of an Ebola epidemic that has killed almost 4,000 people including more than 220 health workers since it began last year.
Sierra Leone, the West African country, has been declared Ebola free, 42 days after the last case was cleared. The announcement is one further step forward in the fight against the 2014 outbreak.
The West African nation’s epidemic was declared over on Saturday at a ceremony attended by President Ernest Bai Koroma and U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) representative Anders Nordstrom.
Thousands of people gathered overnight around the Cotton Tree, a massive tree in the centre of Freetown, for a candlelit vigil organised by women’s groups to pay tribute to health workers who lost their lives.
Since the start of the outbreak, the virus has infected a staggering 8,704, killing 3,589, including 221 healthcare workers. Of the three West African countries hit hardest by the outbreak, Sierra Leone was the hardest hit.
Despite the milestone, monitoring for the illness will continue in earnest through February: while cases have declined, isolated instances continue to appear: back in July, three new cases of the illness surfaced in Liberia, while two new cases of the virus appeared in Guinea last month. Despite those setbacks, the outbreak is well on its way to ending.