The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), has concluded a week-long full scale simulation exercise to test its readiness for potential public health emergencies. The exercise, named ‘Operation Lion Mountain,’ simultaneously tested Sierra Leone’s public health capabilities to respond to a severe health emergency in a coordinated response effort.  The exercise was led by the MOHS’s Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies, its public health partners in Bo and Western Urban districts, and emergency management specialists from CDC, WHO, ANSER, and eHealth Africa. Exercise players were staff trained in public health emergency preparedness and response and numerous volunteers.

Five years after the start of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that resulted in over 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, the exercise simulated sudden confirmation of several Ebola cases in Bo that rapidly spread to Freetown. (Please note this was just a drill and there are currently no Ebola cases in Sierra Leone). The exercise tested the preparedness of essential technical aspects of such an outbreak. Simulation activities included surveillance and 117 phone alert systems allowing rapid case identification, notification and isolation, laboratory testing to confirm cases, infection prevention and control to prevent transmission in communities and health facilities, risk communication to educate the population, and systems for documentation and reporting. The exercise also posed the question to players how to get an experimental Ebola vaccine into the country, transport it under cold chain conditions to outbreak areas, and use it to control the outbreak. The Ebola vaccine has been used during the West Africa epidemic and currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been shown to be safe and effective to protect against the Ebola virus disease. By conducting a full scale functional exercise, the MOHS was able to validate public health emergency systems, policies and procedures, in compliance with the monitoring and evaluation framework for the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

The exercise will impact future WHO Joint External Evaluation (JEE) scores in Sierra Leone by showing “demonstrated” and “sustainable” capacities in emergency response coordination, Emergency Operation Center (EOC) operations, and emergency management. The U.S. government is supporting the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through CDC, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to strengthen the health systems for effective service delivery and build rapid response and resilience to combat public health emergencies.FrontPage27062019.

 

By Emmanuel Okyne

Dr . Alpha Tejan Wurrie making his speech during the Measles and Rubella Campaign

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie has officially launched the week-long measles/ Rubella vaccination campaign across the country which commenced from 10 – 16 June, 2019 at the Bo Coronation Field on Monday.

The campaign will target 1.3 million children for polio from zero age to 5 years in the whole country, and also target 1.2 million children for vitamin A ages 6 months to < years to all children aged 6 months to 59 months and Albendazole (deworming) to all children aged 12 months – 59 months.

 Speaking during the launching ceremony in Bo, Dr. Wurie urged parents and guardians across the country to take their children who are within 0 – 15 years for vaccines.

 He said measles/ Rubella has caused lot of havoc on children within these age brackets, adding that if children are deficient in vitamin A could be affected by the virus severely.

He said worms are also a major cause of the virus, adding that if the immune system is weak, children could also be affected.

Dr. Wurie said health children across the country could lead to psycho -social development in schools as the government has spent huge money in the free and quality education scheme.

“Education and health are intertwining for the development of the country” Dr. Wurie said.

He appealed to community chiefs to render support to the campaign across the country, noting that chiefs played a vibrant role across the country to eradicate the Ebola virus in the country.

Minister Wurie said the Ministry has planned with partners for the week campaign and supported community health staff in Peripheral Health Units with over 200 bikes for movement during the campaign and also refrigerators to preserve the potency of the vaccines.

In giving an overview of the measles/ Rubella, Dr. Tom Sesay said measles normally affect young children, adding that signs are fever, rash and even without the right treatment could lead to complications like pneumonia.

 He said the Rubella is a new virus and similar to that of measles, added that in 2016 Sierra Leone experienced massive outbreak of measles and sample tests were conducted.

 He said the Ministry realized that only a small number had the measles virus, noting  that the remaining cases were Rubella virus.

“After the test, we realized that we have Rubella cases in the country, and that sparked the intervention for Rubella vaccination by WHO”. He said.

Country Representatives for World Health Organization, (WHO) Evans Liyosi who spoke on behalf of the United Nations said they appreciate the venture of government on the new vaccines as it will save the lives of children and also the budget of the Government as children would not fall sick.

“Sierra Leone is moving in the right direction in protecting the public particularly the children against vaccine preventable diseases”.

He said eight years ago polio was a big challenge Worldwide, adding that as of today the position has changed.

 He said in January this year, the World reported 24 cases of World polio, and seven of which came from Afghanistan and 17 in Pakistan, stressing that the African region is safe from January to now.

 He said they will continue to step up in their surveillance cases to bring out any cases, noting that one case of measles can disrupt the gains made over the year.

The WHO Rep stressed that as a country compliancy must not come, as we live in  a global village as people move from one place to the other, He warned. FrontPage14062019.

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