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