Africa

Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone officials in aid row

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBurial teams in Sierra Leone are having to scramble over fresh graves to lay bodies to rest, as the BBC's Tulip Mazumdar reports

A container of aid materials for the fight against Ebola is at the centre of a political row in Sierra Leone.

The $500,000 (£311,000) shipment - which include mattresses, stretchers and protection kits - has been stranded at the port in Freetown for weeks.

Opposition politician Chernor Bah previously told the BBC the government had refused to pay duty on the delivery - something the government denied.

Mr Bah says it is now due to be released after a payment was received.

Earlier a health ministry official said the delivery was approved two weeks ago.

It remains unclear why the aid has not moved from the port in the country's capital.

More than 3,400 people have died during the current Ebola outbreak, nearly all of them in West Africa. In Sierra Leone the death toll is at least 678.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A burial team moves a victim of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone

The shipping container dispute erupted after Mr Bah, a fierce critic of President Bai Koroma, said that the government had refused to pay duty on the aid delivery.

Mr Bah told the BBC that officials had said they would not meet the $6,000 fee required for the items.

However a spokesman for Sierra Leone's health ministry, Yahyah Conteh, said that the government did not normally pay shipping fees for aid donors - but an exception had been made for Mr Bah's shipment and the payment had been made two weeks ago.

Five cases an hour

The BBC's correspondent in Sierra Leone, Umaru Fofana, said that the government's Ebola response plan has occasionally been characterised by internal wrangling among state officials.

There have been allegations of corruption among officials responsible for tackling the virus, he added.

Save the Children reported last week that the rate of Ebola infections was increasing rapidly in Sierra Leone, with five new cases every hour.

Worldwide there have been more than 7,500 confirmed cases. Most have occurred in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Related Topics