SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 By Josephine A. Seppeh (Intern)
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with development partners, has trained a total of 2,034 (two thousand and thirty-four) contact tracers and supervisors in all the 14 districts in Serra Leone. One hundred Ebola contact tracers were trained in each of the districts.
According to UNFPA Assistant Programme Officer, who was one of the facilitators for the training, Jusu Squire, contact tracing is a strategy used by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and development partners, especially UNFPA, to strengthen the surveillance system and break contact between people who are Ebola positive and those who are negative.
He said the government of Sierra Leone, with support from UNFPA, saw the need to train people who could go in search of those who might have come in contact with affected persons. Being that contact tracing is part of Ebola preventive measures, he said UNFPA does not only train people about it, but also teach them about the background to or overview of Ebola, as well as its mode of transmission and prevention.
He said that the roles and responsibilities of the contact tracers include monitoring the day-to-day health conditions of the contacts, reporting community deaths, dispelling myths or rumours about the disease, and vigilance in surveillance of their communities in order to track down people exhibiting Ebola signs and symptoms.
Squire added that in an event where a contact manifests signs and symptoms of the disease, the contact tracers would inform their supervisors for an immediate response, and that the blood sample of such contacts will then be taken for laboratory confirmation.
“If confirmed positive, the ambulance will convey the patient to the case management center in Kailahun for treatment,” he explained. “Contact tracing is germane to the fight against the Ebola disease because it breaks the chain of transmission and helps to identify cases early, thereby curtailing and eradicating the spread of the virus in the communities.”
UNFPA, he said, is partnering with District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) to ensure effective and efficient contact tracing, adding that the trainees are community volunteers recruited by the DHMTs.
UNFPA gives each contact tracer one mobile phone with Africell and Airtel sim cards on close user group (CUG), the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand Leones (Le250, 000) as incentive and transportation.
District Medical Officer for Kambia, Dr. Foday Sesay, emphasized that Ebola has caused an increase in morbidity and mortality in the country. He disclosed that a total number of 13 people, who were quarantined in Madina and Kamabala, have been discharged.
Dr. Sesay thanked UNFPA for adding to the number of contact tracers in each district, although they (Kambia) need two hundred and fifty (250) contact tracers in the district.
Zainab Bangura, a contact tracer in Kambia, registered her profound gratitude to UNFPA and its partners for coming to the aid of communities, and promised to not only carry on with the contact tracing, but also to sensitize people about preventive measures against the Ebola epidemic.