Some residents ran from their homes in Sierra Leone to avoid being trapped during a three-day lockdown to contain the Ebola outbreak, a health worker said today.
It was the second day of a massive effort to confine six million people to their homes.
Nearly 30,000 volunteers and health care workers fanned out across the country on Friday and today to distribute soap and information on how to prevent Ebola, which the World Health Organisation says has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 in the region.
The outreach campaign coincided with the sweeping three-day lockdown so that volunteers could conduct house-to-house searches to identify sick people reluctant or unable to seek treatment for Ebola.
Sierra Leone's government is clearly hoping the lockdown will help turn the tide against the disease. In a speech before it began, President Ernest Bai Koroma said "the survival and dignity of each and every Sierra Leonean" was at stake.
The strategy is controversial, however. After it was announced earlier this month, Doctors Without Borders warned it would be "extremely difficult for health workers to accurately identify cases through door-to-door screening."
Even if suspected cases are identified during the lockdown, the group said Sierra Leone wouldn't have enough beds for them.
In northern Sierra Leone, health worker Lamin Unisa Camara said today he had received some reports that residents had run away from their homes to avoid being trapped during the lockdown.
"I was informed that people were running from their houses to the bush. Without wasting time, I informed the chief in charge of the area to call his people," said Camara, who was working in the town of Kambia.
Several health care workers and volunteers complained that supply kits were delivered late, preventing their teams from starting on time. The kits contain bars of soap, cards listing Ebola symptoms, stickers to mark houses visited and a tally sheet to record suspected cases.