As Sierra Leone marks a grim birthday, the 400th day since its first confirmed Ebola case recorded on 23 March 2014, IBTimes UK spoke to Rossella Miccio, humanitarian office coordinator for NGO Emergency, who warns against the assumption the epidemic has been stemmed.
With around three new Ebola cases every day, Sierra Leone has for now stabilised the outbreak – which was infecting more than 100 people daily at the height of the epidemic in December 2014 – but Miccio says aid agency workers and local residents are letting their guards down.
Precautionary measures for preventing exposure to the virus included temperature checks and washing hands with chlorine water, but Miccio says "as soon as the outbreak decreased after January, you could see [water] chlorine buckets disappearing and people were not taking temperatures anymore".
This, she says, could ease the way for the "next disaster next door".
"This is definitely something that is dangerous," she said, pointing to the fact that Sierra Leone faced a spike in the number of cases in February.
Miccio also explained the international community and local government need to rebuild the healthcare system fast, to ensure the disease does not become endemic.
While Sierra Leone's real GDP growth was estimated at 16.3% for 2013 on the back of mining of iron ore production and export and continued foreign investment, Miccio says "this development never turned into real development for the people", and gains were not translated into better public infrastructure.
As a result, the outbreak in Sierra Leone has killed at least 3,889 people, weakening the already basic and essential health services, undermining trust and creating restrictions on regular health campaigns.
As of 22 April, 12,313 people had been infected in Sierra Leone.