A shipping container filled with approximately $140,000 worth of medical equipment needed to fight the spread of the Ebola virus in the West African country of Sierra Leone has sat untouched on the docks of the country's capital for nearly two months according to a published report.
According to The New York Times the shipment of hospital linens, protective suits, face masks, and other items arrived in the port of Freetown Aug. 9, but has still not been cleared by government officials.
The Ebola outbreak has killed over 3,000 people, with the vast majority of deaths occurring in Sierra Leone and two other West African countries, Liberia and Guinea. Local health officials have been overwhelmed by the spread of the virus, and some say the case of the delayed container is a vivid illustration of how government corruption has undercut efforts to fight Ebola as well.
The Times reports that the shipment was organized by Chernoh Alpha Bah, an opposition politician in Sierra Leone. A government official told the paper that approval of the shipment may have been delayed to prevent the opposition from scoring political points about their response to the outbreak.
The paper also reported that the $6,500 shipping fee for the container had not been paid by the Sierra Leone government, resulting in three other other containers of supplies being kept at the docks by the shipping company. According to The Times, government officials disputed the fee before arguing that proper shipping protocols had not been followed. An official at the country's health ministry said the shipment should have been cleared with them first, before adding that the supplies would be cleared "very soon."
Meanwhile, another would-be donor, an expatriate Sierra Leonean living in Canada, tells the paper his shipment has been delayed for over a month because of the government's unwillingness to pay a $5,000 shipping fee. In context, the government official told The Times that the country has received over $40 million in cash donations to help fight Ebola.
Sierra Leone is still recovering from an 11-year-long civil war, and the country's health ministry was beset by corruption charges levied at dozens of health officials over misappropriation of vaccination funds.