Travel always challenges your expectations. I tend to have vivid ideas of what the new place will look and feel like and more often than not I'm way off the mark. So, what do I expect of Sierra Leone while sitting at Heathrow waiting for a flight?
In many ways I expect life to be going on as normal. I expect markets and traffic and noise and everything else that goes with a city in a poor African country. Will it be obvious to me from the window of a taxi that Ebola is lurking? Will people obviously be avoiding contact with each other and have fear etched on their faces? Somehow I doubt it.
What about the hospitals? Prior to the Ebola epidemic Sierra Leone had a broken healthcare system with one of the highest death rates from malaria and highest ratios of patients to doctors in the world. Clearly there is now an International effort to control Ebola so presumably there are far more healthcare workers in the country than ever before. My expectation is that outside of efforts to manage Ebola there will be very little healthcare activity. It can't be easy running any kind of primary healthcare under those conditions. How many children are being vaccinated? How many women are dying in childbirth and how many people with febrile illnesses unrelated to Ebola are staying at home for fear of being placed in an Ebola ward? Somehow I think a lot.
I'm sure people on the ground are well aware of this but a big fear I have is that the NGO sector will be so focussed on Ebola that everything else will be taking a back seat and a measles outbreak is on the horizon. I hope very much that this is another of my unfounded expectations.