Following the outbreak of Ebola across western Africa, Vision Aid Overseas have halted and withdrawn its programme in Sierra Leone due to fears for its colleagues and eye care workers safety. A forthcoming operation scheduled for September has also been cancelled due to the health risks.
From its first reports in March 2014, the Ebola outbreak has fast become the deadliest occurrence of the disease since it was first discovered in the 1970's. Recent research has shown that the outbreak is believed to have actually begun in Guinea in December 2013, following the death of a young girl from the disease. The severity of the occurrence has lead the World Health Organisation to declare an International Public Health Emergency. Current statistics show 334 deaths from 783 cases in Sierra Leone alone, with over 1000 people having died in total. That is a catastrophic 42.6% mortality rate for the victims of this disease.
Vision Aid Overseas is a worldwide charity that is in operation to help provide invaluable eye care and treatment to those in dire poverty and need. It is estimated that as much as 10% of the world's population are amongst those who are left with poor vision and a lack of eye wear, simply due to a lack of finance and facilities.
The decision to suspend eye care activity in the country is based primarily upon the cross over location for their services and the main location for Ebola treatment, the Kenema Regional Hospital. Plans have not yet been put in place regarding the reopening of the centre. Current volunteers have been immediately relocated away from the hospital and affected area.
The VAO will closely monitor the progress of the outbreak to determine when they can reestablish eye care and vision treatment at the hospital and in the area.