President Ernest Bai Koroma urged people to heed the
emergency measures as health workers, some clad in
protective biohazard suits, went house to house, checking on
residents and marking each doorway they visited with chalk.
Radio stations played Ebola awareness jingles on repeat
and encouraged residents to stay indoors.
"As they are fighting this Ebola, we pray that it will be
eradicated. That's what we are praying for," said resident
Mariam Bangura as she waited at her home in Freetown's West
End neighborhood. Other residents looked out over the
normally bustling seaside city from windows and balconies.
Nearly 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers aim
to visit every household in the country of six million
people by Sunday to educate them about the disease and
isolate the sick.
In Freetown, teams got off to a slow start, waiting
several hours to receive kits containing soap, stickers and
A few police cars and ambulances, sirens blaring, were
the only traffic on the otherwise empty streets. One
emergency vehicle was seen stopping at a house to take on a
Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa
this year, mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia,
killing 2,630 of those, according to the World Health
Organization. The disease has also been reported in Nigeria
The outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever is the worst since
it was identified in 1976 in the forests of central Africa.
Western nations, led by the United States, have pledged
in recent days to ramp up their aid effort and the United
Nations said on Thursday it would deploy a special mission,
calling the outbreak a "threat to international peace and
"As the disease spreads, a truth becomes clear. None of
us is insulated from the threat of Ebola. All of us must be
part of the response," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told
the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.
In Sierra Leone, at least 562 people have died so far
from the disease.
"Today, the life of everyone is at stake, but we will get
over this difficulty if we all do what we have been asked to
do," President Koroma said in a television address late on
"These are extraordinary times and extraordinary times
require extraordinary measures."
Some have questioned whether the campaign will be
effective. Sierra Leone newspaper Awareness Times in an
editorial called the preparations for the lockdown "chaotic"
and recommended its postponement.
"This morning many families are calling on the radio
crying because of lack of food in their homes," said Ahmed
Nanoh, executive secretary of Sierra Leone's chamber of
"Food prices have gone up 30 percent. Many homes that
cannot afford (food) are starving.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has been
at the forefront of the effort to contain the epidemic,
warned last week that the lock-down could lead to the
concealment of cases, potentially causing the disease to
An official for the United Nations children's agency
UNICEF, Roeland Monasch, said, however, that the "Ose to Ose"
campaign, which means "house to house" in local Krio, would