As news finally breaks in Sierra Leone that it is finally Ebola-free, a Banbury businessman has reflected on his time in the country ten years since he started making a difference to those living there.
It has now been more more than 50 days with no new outbreak of the virus, prompting the World Health Organisation to declare the country Ebola-free.
Everyone in Banbury knows the great work Alan Wolstencroft has done to helpbuild more classrooms and toilet blocks for three schools in the country’s capital Freetown, but he is not resting on his laurels just yet as he is in the early stages of planning a new project with another school.
Mr Wolstencroft, who runs Fashion Fabrics in Parsons Street, has expressed his delight at the news.
He said: “I was just so glad that, after everything the country has been through for 18 months, finally there is a declaration.
“It has been a long and very dark tunnel and they need to make sure complacency doesn’t creep in.
“But I am so pleased for the people and the country because it has been a living nightmare for them.”
During his ten years in Sierra Leone Mr Wolstencroft has co-ordinated the funding and building of 22 classrooms and three toilet blocks, refurbishment of 15 classrooms and the installation of a hand pump plus refurbishment of a well.
He has also helped with the installation of rainwater harvesting at one school, building a multi purpose assembly hall and staff toilets, the creation of a playground area, library and staff room area.
Mr Wolstencroft, who is also a member of the Rotary Club of Banbury, delivers talks about his projects in Sierra Leone and last week’s Children Singing for Children Concerts will donate some of their proceeds to help.
He said: “I have done more than 300 talks regarding my work in Sierra Leone which have generated donations of £66,000 of a total of £133,000 I have raised for projects in the country.
“I have had fantastic support from family, friends, customers, local businesses, hundreds of organisations and individuals, dozens of Rotary Clubs and Rotary friends who have all helped me ‘make a real difference’ in Sierra Leone and I am indebted to all of them.
“Every pound goes directly to the projects and every pound has helped transform the lives of people in the communities that I support.”
For more information about Mr Wolstencroft’s work visit his website at www.alanwooly.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
> The Ebola outbreak in west Africa was first reported in March 2014 and has gone on to become the worst occurence of the disease since 1976.
Figures up to November 1 of this year have shown that more than 11,000 people have died from Ebola and as well as Sierra Leone it affected Guinea and Liberia.
About 27,000 cases were reported to the World Health Organisation but it is very unlikely the disease would spread in this country. The first confirmed case of Ebola was in Guinea in December 2013 when a two-year-old boy died of an unexpected haemorraghic fever, followed by his mother, sister and grandmother.
By March 2014, 59 confirmed cases of Ebola had been reported in Guinea with fears that the disease might have spread to Sierra Leone. The WHO confirmed in May 2014 that Ebola had reached the country and in a bid to stop the spread of the virus, the government barred people from leaving their homes for three days.
On August 8 2014 the WHO declared Ebola an International Health Emergency, with the death toll reaching 1,000.
The impact of Ebola had a devastating effect on the population of Sierra Leone. At its height there were 450 cases confirmed in a week.
People with the Ebola virus will typically develop a fever, a headache, joint and muscle pain, a sore throat, and intense muscle weakness. These symptoms start suddenly between two and 21 days after infection.
Diarrhoea, vomiting, a rash, stomach pain and impaired kidney and liver function follow.
The patient then bleeds internally, and may also bleed from the ears, eyes, nose or mouth.
It is estimated that 60 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and while it is great news the virus has been declared free in the country, the hard work starts now to ensure that those affected can move on with their lives. It might be a few years until this happens but it is a start.