Sierra Leone's largest newspaper, the Awareness Times
, is reporting with alarm
that at least 1,028 Ebola patients appear to be missing in the country, as official Ministry of Health statistics account for a smaller number of combined victims and survivors of the disease than the total number of registered cases.
The Awareness Times
report notes that the Ministry of Health has confirmed 2,000 cases of Ebola in the country. Its official statistics note that 540 have died, while 432 are classified as survivors. That leaves 1,042 unaccounted for cases.
The report follows up on a New York Times piece
in which a Western diplomat is quoted as saying that official statistics in Sierra Leone are highly untrustworthy. According to the Times
, those numbers are believed to be "largely inaccurate," rendering them borderline useless. Said the diplomat: "Even a 2-year-old child can look at them and see they don't add up." The Times
notes that Sierra Leone has responded to the crisis largely by quarantining large areas-- nearly all 14 districts in Sierra Leone are at least partially quarantined, and it is believed that between one and two million people
are being kept locked down due to this measure.
The Awareness Times
did the math to prove the inaccuracy of the numbers, and the response they received from the Ministry of Health did little to assuage the concern that the government has little control over the situation
. In a statement highlighting the convoluted relationships between press and state in Sierra Leone, Dr. Sylvia Blyden-- both Special Executive Assistant to President Ernest Koroma and founder of the Awareness Times
-- issued a statement to her own newspaper:
"The fact is that a few of these unaccounted-for numbers are currently admitted in Ebola centers but I can categorically state today that the vast majority of the [over] 1,000 patients are already DEAD and lying in their graves. Yes, they are dead and buried! Hundreds of them! :-( May their souls rest in peace."
She goes on to blame the erroneous numbers on "a flight of common sense" on the part of the government, and adds that many of those unaccounted for are those who did not die in medical facilities, but rather died in their homes, and may continue to remain in their homes undisturbed given the fear of touching the body of a person with Ebola.