Emergency Preparedness

eHealth Africa supports cholera Simulation as part of its Emergency Preparedness

By Umu McCarthy and Sahr Ngaujah

Sierra Leone is known for persistent heavy rains that sometimes lead to public health emergencies including the August 2017 mudslides and cholera outbreaks. As of June 2012, a total of 25,000 people were affected by cholera in Sierra Leone & Guinea, with 399 deaths in Sierra Leone. It was the country's largest outbreak of cholera since the disease was first reported in 1970 and the deadliest since the 1994–1995 cholera outbreak. This has been the largest outbreak in the West Africa region.

eHealth Africa (eHA) partnered with U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the World Health Organization (WHO), in a Cholera Simulation Exercise conducted in the Kambia District, in Northern Sierra Leone. A total of 36 healthcare workers and Health Management Teams  across the country, represented their various Districts in the simulation exercise. The key objectives of the simulation exercise were to:

  • promote awareness of cholera to emergency response staff

  • assess the effectiveness of the surveillance, laboratory and logistics capabilities of the selected districts to respond during outbreaks

  • discuss the roles and responsibilities of Public Health National Emergency Operations Center (PHNEOC) personnel during a potential outbreak activation in accordance with the district and national plans

  • test existing communication and coordination structures  implementation of emergency preparedness and response operations

Usually during the rainy season there is an increase in the trend of diarrhea cases. This puts the country on red alert to heighten its surveillance and preparedness plans. This simulation exercise was a deliberate and proactive step to addressing cholera crisis, should they come up
— Alusine Kamara

Alusine Kamara, the Public Health Operations Coordinator at the Sierra Leone National Emergency Operations Center, was key facilitator of the simulation exercise alongside  Dr. Claudette Amuzu, National Professional Officer, Emergency Preparedness Response, WHO.

CDC is funding eHA’s Emergency Management and Preparedness Project in Sierra Leone. The goal of this project is to enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s ability to prepare, prevent and adequately respond to current and future outbreak of diseases including Ebola Virus Disease.

eHA’s role is to build the capacity of Ministry of Health and Sanitation personnel on key emergency management concepts in line with the Global Health Security Agenda. Scenarios, plenary sessions and presentations were used to test participants’ knowledge on cholera response. After the exercise, participants now have knowledge on how to control the spread of cholera during an outbreak.

Emergency Operation is new to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Ebola crisis was our very first experience and we are still using the lessons learnt to inform future emergencies . The simulation exercise could not have come at a better time. Partners were able to identify relevant players at the District levels. This makes it easier for response teams during an emergency. If there is a cholera emergency now, I am better placed to mobilize both human and logistical resources to respond to it.
— Sahr Gbandeh, Emergency Operations Center Focal Person for Western Area Urban

The simulation exercise, if properly implemented, goes to also benefit thousands of Sierra Leoneans during an outbreak of cholera.






The EOC Revolution

By Joshua Ozugbakun & Emerald Awa- Agwu

In line with eHealth Africa’s quest to add more value to the states that we live and work in, the Polio Emergency Operations Centres are being rebranded to provide much more than administrative and coordination functions to the states. 

‘’All the work that eHA does is not for ourselves but to make our partners’ work better’’
— Atef Fawaz, Deputy Director, Program Operations, Nigeria

The Emergency Operating Centres (EOCs) were created by eHealth Africa and other partners such as U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Public Health England to serve as centers for the emergency management and response coordination of Polio and other infectious diseases in Nigeria. The EOCs are located in Abuja, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Borno, Bauchi, and Yobe states and during an outbreak, the EOCs serve as a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management.

After the establishment of the EOCs, eHealth Africa continues to support the center by ensuring that 24-hour electricity and internet access are available and that Technical/ Administrative Coordinators are on hand to ensure connectivity and the maintenance of the EOCs. However, this year, eHA decided that the Technical and Administrative Coordinators could be supporting the states in more ways. Here’s how:

 

Step 1: Capacity Building Workshop

eHealth Africa trained a total of 17 technical and admin coordinators from the 16th to 24th of April, 2018. This was the first step in the transition of eHA’s role in the EOCs from administrative to technical. The T/A Coordinators were trained on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Analytics and Data Management.       

Photo of Capacity Building Training

Photo of Capacity Building Training

Step 2: 60- day Transition Phase

Following the successful conclusion of the capacity building workshop, the EOC technical support team (formerly the T/A coordinators) are undergoing a transition window during which they are expected to utilise the skills they had gained in their day to day activities at the EOCs. Some of these skills include:

This phase is intended to assess the abilities of the EOC technical support teams will be to use these skills; as well as to identify and address areas of growth or gaps in knowledge.    

Eventually, the EOC technical support teams will be able to act as frontline representatives of eHealth Africa to the states and partners who utilize the EOCs where they are domiciled. They will be able to add more value to eHA as well by identifying more opportunities for business development.

 

Behold the new faces of the EOCs!

Behold the new faces of the EOCs!