Nearly three years after Ebola hit Sierra Leone, millions of dollars in funds raised to fight the deadly virus have still not been accounted for.
Alhassan Kemokai was infected with Ebola in September 2014 by his mother, who later died of the virus. She had been working in the radiology department at Kenema Government Hospital, on the frontline in the fight against the outbreak which had hit Sierra Leone four months earlier.
“My mother’s death is attributable to the fact that she lacked such basic things as gloves, which was how she got infected as she helped an unsuspecting Ebola patient,” Mr Kemokai says.
The outbreak, which started in Guinea in December 2013, engulfed Sierra Leone, killing nearly 4,000 people. The dead included more than 200 health workers, of whom more than 50 worked at the Kenema hospital.
In the sleepy suburb of Heigbema (whose name translates as “going elephant-watching”), Mr Kemokai struggles to look after his family. In the early evening, his two biological and four adopted children sit expectantly, waiting for the day’s meal.
As smoke billows from the kitchen behind him, Mr Kemokai rubs his eyes. He recalls his then 63-year-old mother, a clerk radiologist who he says was “the elephant in the family carrying all the load”. He says all of that is now on his shoulders, with no sustainable income.
Mr Kemokai got infected at a time when huge funds had been released to fight the epidemic. The money came from the national coffers and private donations made to the state. However, supplies needed to respond to the outbreak were still in short supply.
An internal audit of the first six months of the outbreak said at least $14m (£11m) had been misappropriated or was unaccounted for.
The audit also said that no proof existed that payments of high-risk health workers’ hazard allowances, amounting to more than $4m, had been paid. During the outbreak it was commonplace for payment of such allowances to be delayed.
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Image caption Gloves were not available for all Sierra Leonean health workers coming into contact with Ebola patients
This led to dramatic strike action in late 2014 at the Kenema hospital. Members of the specialist burial teams brought out corpses from the morgue and placed them at the hospital entry points, demanding unpaid allowances.
Andrew Bockarie, a hygienist, joined the strike. But his action was over more than just a payment delay.
“I was signing for 2 million leone [$360] a month” he said, “but I only received 1.5 million Leone.”
Mr Bockarie said this went on for eight months, meaning he was owed 4 million leone. He says this was “stolen” from him by those administering the Ebola funds.
Image caption Nothing was done about the misprocurement, says auditor general Lara Taylor-Pearce
Two years since a damning report on the handling of funds to fight the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone’s auditor general, Lara Taylor-Pearce, says some of the missing money remains unaccounted for. READ More on BBC…