Ebola victims sue Sierra Leone government over mismanaged funds

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Health workers put on protective gear before entering a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, Kono district in Eastern Sierra Leone December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Health workers put on protective gear before entering a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, Kono district in Eastern Sierra Leone December 19, 2014. REUTERS

Two Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone filed a lawsuit in a regional court on Friday, accusing the government of mismanaging funds during an epidemic that killed more than 3,000 people in the West African nation.

The deadly outbreak mainly affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2013 to 2016 killing over 11,300 people, Reuters reports.

Millions of dollars were poured into the three nations by foreign governments, aimed at curbing the spread of the epidemic but local authorities in Sierra Leone were allegedly accused of corruption and misuse of the funds.

Sierra Leone’s government has pledged to investigate any accusations but so far there have been no prosecutions related to misspent government Ebola resources.

“Sierra Leoneans have repeatedly demanded accountability and justice for the mismanagement of Ebola response funds, but their demands have fallen on deaf ears,” said Ibrahim Tommy of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, which is assisting the plaintiffs.

The two Ebola survivors, who contracted the virus while serving as health workers, blame inadequate resources provided by the government for their infection and the subsequent deaths of many of their colleagues.

Around 250 health workers died in Sierra Leone over the course of the epidemic.

The suit, filed with the Nigeria-based court of regional bloc ECOWAS, alleges the government’s actions during the health crisis violated its citizens’ “right to life and right to health”.

The plaintiffs are seeking both financial and non-financial compensation, Tommy said.

Sierra Leone’s Attorney General Joseph Kamara said that the government had not yet received notification of the complaint, adding that until it did he was unable to comment on the case.

An internal government audit in 2015 found that a third of resources earmarked to fight the epidemic during a six-month period a year earlier could not be properly accounted for. It added that proper use of the funds could have saved more lives.

“We want to know what happened with the money,” said Yusuf Kabbah, the head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola survivors association. “We are very much interested to give our own support, so that all those that were actors in the fight will be held responsible.”

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