Cholera outbreak in SL and Nov elections
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Sep 15, 2012 3:24 PM Last Post By: vedicaudio
Aug 29, 2012 4:37 AM
Cholera outbreak in SL and Nov electionsHi,
I was planning a 10 day trip to Sierra Leone taking in Freetown, Banana Island and the Peninsula beaches in early December this year. Two concerns I currently have are surrounding the recent cholera outbreak in the country and elections scheduled for the 17th November. If anyone is able to provide advice on any of these two factors and whether they think it will be safe and ok to still travel there please let me know. For reference I will be travelling with my girlfriend, both early 20s experienced travellers (incl. Africa), planning on booking through a tour operator for major journeys within SL in advance.
1. Cholera outbreak - is this something that is common in the wet season and usually dies down towards the end of the year? is it likely to remain significant by December, if this year's outbreak is particularly severe may it impact the general mood/feel of the country? Are there any precautions we should take beyond the obvious drinking water considerations?
2. Elections - What is the feeling / expectation for how these will proceed? is there much tension in the country in expectation? Basically what are the chances of prolonged violence and disorder following the elections as was seen in Kenya in 2007?
The question for both of these is not so much whether if you were determined to go, would you be safe; but will it still be worth going at that time given we (whilst used to travelling in difficult countries) are principally looking for an interesting and enjoyable holiday?
Any help on these issues and general tips would be much appreciated.
Edited by: nico88
Aug 29, 2012 12:35 PM
I looked at the archives of an email list about disease outbreaks, as well as current travel notices from the US CDC and the UK NHS. No one is warning visitors ot stay away.
The biggest problem is in slum areas of Freetown, right on the coast. Most visitors are not likely to go there and will have the means to avoid drinking contaminated water.
This is from the US CDC on a serious outbreak in Cuba. It tells you what to do to prevent infection. Cholera in Cuba
Aug 29, 2012 11:59 PM
I travelled in Sierra Leone during the elections in 2007. There was a lot of tension in the country at the time, and many people were worried that the elections would lead to violence. There were certainly unpleasant incidents in the country throughout the election period, mostly in Freetown - from I remember, I saw about a dozen deaths reported due to election violence. The elections seemed to put off most tourists to Sierra Leone - I didn't meet any during my time there - but personally I had a great time, and I didn't expereince any election-related trouble myself. The elections made for a great talking point with local people, and I found it fascinating to witness the political process in a country like Sierra Leone.
I haven't been back since 2007, so I'm not very aware of what the political situation in the country currently is, or what the chance of prolonged violence is. In 2007, many people's fears turned out to be unfounded, but Sierra Leone does have a very violent past, and politics in the country are largely based on ethnic lines, which does have the potential for big problems. If the electoral process in 2012 is going to be anything like the process in 2007, here are some general tips:
1. Most of the violence in 2007 seemed to take place in Freetown, particularly around the headquarters of the main political parties. Try and learn where they are in the city, and avoid them if you see large crowds hanging about. You're probably best off avoiding large party rallies which go parading through the city as well, or at least being careful around them.
2. Expect disruptions when the final election results are announced. I was in Kenema when the 2007 election results were given, and the entire city shut down in about 15 minutes, with nearly every store being closed, and the streets filling with partisans of the winning political party.
3. Don't try and go anywhere on election day. You should be able to wander around the polling stations to watch people vote, something I found very interesting.
Generally though, I didn't find that the 2007 elections provided too much disruption to travel, and I had a fascinating time in the country.
Sep 2, 2012 5:10 AM
3I've just been to Sierra Leone for 2 weeks (returned yesterday); the cholera is mainly in the slums of Freetown. When you are carefull with what you drink and eat, wash your hands many times, bring ORS and antibiotics just in case and are not going into the slums, you'll be OK. Now it is rainy season but this is coming to an end soon (september). When you travel in the country you don't notice that there is a cholera epidemía. I've had a wonderfull time.
Sep 15, 2012 3:24 PM
4I wouldn't worry about the cholera. Like others have said, it should die down since NGOs and government are attacking it full force now, and you can take precautions.
As far as the elections, Ernest Bai Koroma is hugely popular, and the SLPP made a dubious choice in picking a previous head of state who took power through a coup during the civil war. We don't have scientific polling data here, but I think most people expect Koroma to be re-elected easily. However, he may not get a direct victory in the 1st round, so there is a good chance that the 2nd round of voting will take place during your visit. Nonetheless, I don't feel any tension about the elections, and don't expect any. Despite the cholera outbreak, the country is clearly improving in many respects, and so I don't think the stakes are as high as they were in 2007, and certainly not anywhere near 1996.
I would proceed with your plans without worry.
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