The Government of Sierra Leone, as part of its numerous strides to contain the deadly Ebola disease in the country, has provided the Kailahun District Health Management Team with the sum of Le380 million to support the fight against the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Presenting the cheque to the District Medical Officer, James Squire in the Primary Health Care conference hall in Kailahun, Health and Sanitation Minister Miatta Kargbo reiterated government’s commitment to end what she described as another war that needs the support of every Sierra Leonean.
The amount presented, the minister said, is meant to give support to intensify sensitization, contact tracing, risk allowance, and the provision of fuel for referrals and surveillance services among other key interventions to enhance effective service delivery. The minister in addition, presented a World Food Programme (WFP) truck load of food items which included cereal, soya beans and cooking oil, and other items from the ministry such as chlorine, personal protective equipment, nap sack sprayers and clothing for hospitalized and discharged survivors.
Minister Kargbo, who led a high profiled team of health personnel including the WHO Country Representative, told the meeting that she was overwhelmed and encouraged by the level of tranquility in the district, and the commitment and dedication to service seen by health workers on the ground.
She described the Ebola outbreak in the country as a hurricane of destruction, pointing out that she is optimistic that President Koroma’s commitment to the fight and her team’s mission to Kailahun is the beginning of the end of the Ebola war in Sierra Leone.
Madam Kargbo noted the devastating impact of the epidemic but was encouraged by the level of case fatality as compared to other countries. The death rate, she said, still remains a big challenge for the country, and commended her health workers and partners for their invaluable support to contain the disease.
She however lamented the unfortunate situation of health workers being attacked whilst trying to save lives, putting theirs at risk, and appealed to the general public to take the situation serious and recognize the sacrificial efforts of health personnel. The outbreak, she said is a threat for the West Africa sub-region, adding that it is a national call for action by all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans to help contain the disease.
Making his remarks, the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Jacob Mufunda, told his audience that the fate of the challenges in the outbreak of the disease is in the hands of the District Health Management Teams across the country, and reiterated the firmness and commitment of the UN agencies’ continued support to accelerate progress in the fight to address the situation.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brima Kargbo noted the growing incidence of case mortality and the efforts of health workers, and commended them for the good work. He also expressed gratitude to MSF for the establishment of the treatment centre in Kailahun, as well as other partners and stakeholders in the fight to contain the disease.
The MSF Emergency Coordinator, Anja Wolz, reaffirmed her organization’s active commitment in the response phase, and on behalf of her team pledged to face the challenges for posterity.
Making their presentation, the District Medical Officer, Dr. James Squire and Mr. James Bangura of the Metabiota USA Research Firm Project, told the minister and team about the proposed cross border MRU meeting to be held in Kailahun in July this year with the participation of Guinea and Liberia; the training of 300 contact tracers; formation of committees working assiduously within their comprehensive District Response Plan; and the training of 20 volunteers per chiefdom covering the 14 chiefdoms in the district.
Other highlights of the presentation include: case investigation of all alerts and confirmed cases, rumour verification, resistance of some communities, progress in house-to-house sensitization, installed 94 beds for transit, confirmed and probable cases, and the challenges faced for additional staff.
In a related development, the Health Minister met with staff of the Kailahun Government Hospital and lauded them for holding the fort though under difficult circumstances. She described their work as a divine sacrifice and promised to reward them with incentives that would motivate them as a token of appreciation.
Trained and qualified volunteers, the minister opined, would be given priority consideration in the ongoing recruitment of staff for postings.
The anaesthetist and midwife in the hospital, on behalf of her colleagues, assured the minister of their continued support in her strides towards achieving the desired goal of the ministry.
In Daru, Jawei Chiefdom, where the case fatality is the highest, the minister met with the chiefs and elders, and a cross section of the community to express her condolences to the bereaved families of the lost Ebola victims on behalf of government.
Government, Ms. Kargbo said, is concerned over the growing incidence, noting that the outbreak has caused a devastating effect to the nation. She thanked the chiefs for the patriotic leadership role demonstrated even at the period of grief.
The closure of schools in the district, the minister said, is a life-saving intervention, noting its effect when schools would have been in progress. In line with the BECE exams, she told her audience that the exams have been postponed to August 2014 across the country so that the closure would not only affect the district.
Paramount Chief Gombukla Kallon of Jawei Chiefdom said though he lost his wife and daughter as a result of the outbreak but sees the unfortunate situation as a death destined by God. He pledged to continue to sensitize his subjects that the outbreak is real.
PC Kallon informed the minister and team that he has instituted a bylaw with the fine of Le300,000 for harbouring victims in the town, and for those in the villages, a fine of Le250,000 as a measure to avert the spread of the disease.
Giving his testimony, Town Chief Samai Baion said his wife and daughter were tested positive of the disease, he was negative, and three of them admitted and treated at the Kenema treatment centre.
He said his wife and daughter were retested several times and later proved negative. Three of them, the town chief said, were discharged and now encouraging suspected cases to be reported earlier as early detection may save life.
In Kenema, the minister in a related event visited the Kenema Government Hospital and presented a cheque of Le106 million to the District Medical Officer, Dr. Mohamed Vandy as government support to execute some key interventions in the fight to contain the disease.
A visit to the MSF treatment centre in Kailahun formed part of the ministry’s mission.