As the Coronavirus pandemic continues around the globe, we are catching up with our guides and partners in various countries to find out how they are being affected by the current crisis.
Here we bring you the thoughts of Bassie, our guide in Sierra Leone.
Fortune Bassie is my name; I’m a tour guide in Sierra Leone. The current situation in Sierra Leone, it’s really not encouraging because businesses are all closed down due to the Corona epidemic. We are all fighting and Sierra Leone is a nation of 7 million people.
Tourism has been one of the fastest growing areas in Sierra Leone in recent times; we are a tourist commune. But now tourism and hospitality is one of the biggest hit areas and we now face a big a huge challenge.
During the Ebola outbreak, the economy of Sierra Leone crumbled. It left Sierra Leone with nothing; we lost most of our doctors and health workers.
Ebola claimed many lives, including babies. It wiped out villages in the provincial areas especially as these are the areas it originated in. The problem back then was such little information about the Ebola outbreak being given to population. People were taking care of their sick relatives at home and so this is how they get infected.
But now, the situation with COVID-19 is more encouraging. We have seen a lot of things on the internet. We have heard what our health workers are trying to tell us, things we must adhere like to wash our hands regularly. The government is encouraging citizens to use masks when going out to public places and also we must observe social distancing. We are also told even if you have any mild symptoms, you must call the emergency hotline.
We are faced with health challenges but we will do our best to manage. We have government hospitals in each 16 districts in Sierra Leone. However we cannot say we are prepared. We do not have the ventilators we are seeing in Europe that they are used to help people to breath. We have medical practitioners working relentlessly to encourage people who have symptoms to report to hospital, because the earlier you go to these places the earlier you have the chance to survive. So far the numbers of people infected is low and we need to keep it this way. We need to stop the spread of this virus because it reaches the remote districts, this is when the big problems start In most of these places, many families are living in a single room and some can have up to 8, 9, 10 families living in these places.
People are feeling the heat because in Sierra Leone businesses are closed, borders are closed, business is not coming in, business is not coming out, because our borders are closed with our neighbouring counties and flights are not even coming. And those who are here like the hotels, the restaurants which are operating within the beach areas, and the restaurants even in other places are now shut down.
The situation is very, very, very, very alarming. We have no income because business is not happening. Hotels, airlines and restaurants were creating jobs for half of the working population.
Another issue is food shortages because half of our food comes from provincial areas. Now we need permits to go to these areas. It’s a long process to obtain these permits and it makes it difficult for us to travel to buy food. The people in the provincial areas also have difficulty to travel to Freetown to sell their food.
As a tour guide myself who barely survives even during normal times when tourists are coming in and out of Sierra Leone, this situation for me now is really terrible. I’ve been through a lot in my life. As a young boy, I lost parents at the age of 9 to the Civil War. Both my parents were killed by the rebels and I had to take care of myself and raise money to be able to go to school and college.
It is a challenging time, and I am struggling as I have no work to do and I have no idea when this pandemic will come to an end. It’s very difficult for me missing out on peak tourism season. I have not yet even paid my rent and I have two kids studying at home barely surviving.