Sierra Leone: Coronavirus has not only killed millions of people around the globe, but has also caused serious traumatization on the lives of those it has spared temporarily. Such trauma ranges for psychological effect, financial constraint and the deprivation of some basic human and economic rights as well.
80% of the country’s population in the capital including workers, pupils and business dealers depend on commercial vehicles, tricycles and motor bikes to move from one destination to the other.
But since the eruption of the virus in the country, drivers, vehicle owners and passengers have also tasted the bitterness of such a deadly menace, by reducing their income and also creating difficulties for passengers.
Isatu Koroma is the owner of Bar and Restaurant at the Aberdeen Beach, who noted that since the government imposed restrictions on drivers, amongst which is to reduce the number of passengers in their vehicles, it has had direct financial effect on them.
“The money we are now spending on transportation is far above what we used to spend before the virus came into this country. Sometimes I go all the way to the provinces in order to get what I need for my customers, spending huge amount of money on transportation to come with the goods, there is little or no sales after such an investment. My business crumbled and up till now I am feeling the heat of the virus.”
She underscored that some of her colleagues had stopped doing business, as a result of lack of sales and difficulties the coronavirus had brought upon them as business people.
Speaking on behalf of drivers in the country, the President of the Sierra Leone Drivers Union, Alpha Amadu Bah said the sector was badly affected by the coronavirus. “If you are talking about the negative effect of the COVID-19 in our country, I think the transportation sector, is one of the most affected, since the first case was announced in March 2020.”
Mr. Bah said in order to restrain the spread of the virus; the government decided to impose certain restrictions and some of those restrictions tended to affect them directly as drivers. He noted that they were hit by the reduction in number of passengers in order to promote social distancing, which he said is a key preventive measure to cut the spread of the virus.
The President said due to such reduction, it also cut down their income but however noted “Since the health of the nation comes first, it’s a sacrifice worth taking for the protection and safety of our nation.
A member of the Market Women Association, Mariatu Kamara, who also trades in vegetables, disclosed that “I almost lost my entire business during this COVID -19 period.“ She said that after government decided to introduce the curfew, it affected her greatly since she trades in perishable goods. Kamara disclosed that transportation was difficult to get and failure to get a vehicle to deliver her goods on time as cost her a huge amount in losses.
She said things became difficult for them as a whole because of the increase in transportation prices being imposed on the people who are bringing the goods to Freetown from the provinces. She said because those people who are coming with the goods want also to maintain their profit, they too will increase the prices of their goods and the final consumers will end up paying the price.
Plying from the province to Freetown, Unisa Suma said, as drivers they had no alternative after the government had reduced the number of passengers they used to carry but to increase the amount of money per passenger, in order to make up for the lost seats. “We too have our families and we also need to survive in the process,” he concluded.
Agnes Moriba a civil servant who normally uses commercial transport on her way to work, disclosed to this medium that since the restriction by government on commercial transportations, the passengers have been footing the bills on account of the reduction.
Moriba said the taxi drivers and keke rider have all increased their prices, which sometime makes it very difficult to get transport on her way to work or from the office to her house.
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*This story was support put together with the support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).