Sierra Leone

Meet the Team - Mohamed Sulaiman Kamara

Meet Mohamed Sulaiman Kamara, a die-hard Arsenal fan and the Chief Accountant in our Sierra Leone office!

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Mohamed joined eHealth Africa (eHA) as a Project Accountant in 2017 and was promoted to this current position after consistent hard work and excellent performance. Mohamed has always worked closely with his team to ensure that they are working towards their team goals and the organization’s overall goals.

Mohamed’s role is a challenging but exciting one, he and his team primarily support all projects by ensuring their accounting and finance processes and procedures are in line with best practices. He ensures the books are closed on a monthly basis in compliance with regulatory standards and makes sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed for audits. Mohammed also guides and mentors the project accountants, he provides technical support to them when needed and ensures his team remains high performing.

For him, the most rewarding part of his job is the challenges. These challenges help him think critically and innovatively to come up with solutions. Mohammed also enjoys working with diverse teams that include partners and stakeholders, they ensure that no two days are the same at eHA.

In addition to his love and passion for Accounting and Arsenal, Mohammed loves reading motivational books and listening to business news.

Meet The Team - Abdulai Dumbuya

Meet Abdulai Dumbuya, Senior Network Administrator,  in our Sierra Leone office.

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Abdulai has been part of the eHealth Africa (eHA) team for approximately 4 years. He is a team lead and go-to person for issues relating to networking, troubleshooting,  systems backups, the configuration of network application systems, maintenance and administration of Wide Area Network (WAN) technologies and the execution of network disaster recovery plan.

He also the deputy to the ICT Manager and performs administrative duties for the ICT team, including assisting with the preparation of annual ICT budget and procurement for the department.

eHA’s approach to serving underserved communities in Africa is one of my motivations for working with the organization.
— Abdulai Dumbuya

One of Abdulai’s biggest contributions to eHA is reducing the operational cost of the 117 Call Center by over 50%. He achieved this by moving the 117 call center ICT infrastructure from an external provider to the Emergency Operations Center  (EOC), under the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS).

We are glad to have Abdulai on our team!

eHealth Africa supports Sierra Leone’s Public Health Services for better response to public health emergencies

The first-documented most widespread and deadly outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa devastated three countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The outbreak started in May 2014 and by November 2014, during the height of the outbreak, Sierra Leone recorded over 500 new cases of Ebola a week. By October 2015, a total of 8,704 EVD cases had been diagnosed, and 3,589 people had died of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

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This disease caught the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) by surprise. The outbreak could not be effectively managed because the country did not have the requisite capacity (structure and staff) and systems -Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), policies and plans, to effectively manage and mitigate the risks posed by the disease.

Ebola’s destruction on the peoples of Sierra Leone and the absence of appropriate structures to deal with future outbreaks, prompted the establishment of Public Health National Emergency Operations Center (PHNEOC) in  June 2015, as a coordination structure charged with the responsibility of providing public health emergency preparedness leadership, scientific and technical situational awareness and advice at a national level.

As Sierra Leoneans reflect on the atrocities of Ebola and other emergencies, this question becomes inevitable: Is Sierra Leone better prepared to address any future public health emergencies?

To better prepare for future outbreaks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and eHealth Africa, conducted successful trainings for health workers and other stakeholders on Public Health Emergency Management, Risk Communication,Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA), Incident Management Systems and Public Health Operations and Management. These training sessions were done in Bo, Bombali districts and Western Area Urban with the involvement of health workers, district councillors, the national security agency and members of the agricultural sector. These trainings are geared towards improving the PHNEOC’s capacity to better prepare for health-related emergencies.

The PHNEOC/MoHS as beneficiaries have acquired increased knowledge on the method of approach in risk mitigation, analysis, preparedness, response, and recovery. For instance, EOC Focal Persons have been trained in all districts in Sierra Leone to decentralize command and control approach which has provided the necessary pace, efficiency, and structure for response efforts and foster real-time reporting and bridged the gap in communication from the districts EOC’s to the national EOC. eHA, with support from CDC, has embarked on introducing tools that seek to improve the coordination strategy of the PHNEOC such as the Virtual  Emergency Operations Center (EOC) communication platform tool. eHA has partnered with MoHS with support from CDC to train about 200 PHNEOC/MoHS staff on various public health emergency topics such as tabletop simulation exercises on Cholera and Lassa Fever; Executive Management training and Virtual EOC training.

I have participated in several trainings, I must confess that knowledge gained in this training is exceptional and can contribute meaningfully in any future outbreak and also benefit my District Health Management Team (DHMT) with management skills.
— Sahr Amara Moiba
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Virtual EOC training participants

Sahr Amara Moiba, District Surveillance Officer and EOC focal person in Kono district, is one of the 200 beneficiaries of the EMP training.

In 2018, there was a Measles outbreak in Pujehun and Kambia district. The EOC focal persons in these districts sent in a daily situational report to the national EOC which was presented to partners during the daily briefing meetings held at the EOC.

As part of the effort to strengthen the PHNEOC preparedness and response capacity, and also improve on the country’s Joint External Evaluation scores, eHA in collaboration with MoHS with support from CDC, developed SOPs for public health response. These SOPs will help improve on the response strategy of the PHNEOC in a coordinated way.

These SOPs will help foster a coordinated response in an event of any public health emergency.
— Mukeh Fambulleh, Program Manager of the PHNEOC

eHealth Africa and partners boost Sierra Leone’s surveillance capacity through 117 Call Center

Photo caption: Alexander Taylor, 117 Call Center Manager conducted a tour of the upgraded facility

Photo caption: Alexander Taylor, 117 Call Center Manager conducted a tour of the upgraded facility

Between 2018 and 2019, eHealth Africa (eHA) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) worked together to ensure that Sierra Leone’s surveillance efforts were strengthened through the use of 117 Call Center.

The 117 Call Center is a Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation initiative that was set up in 2012 as part of a wider support system to improve maternal and child health. In 2014, eHA partnered with the Ministries of Health (MOH) in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to scale up existing universal toll-free numbers to become Ebola focused call centers. The 117 Call Center was scaled-up in response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak - to serve as a tool to document, track and provide follow-up on suspected EVD cases and deaths. The 117 Call Center provides an early warning mortality and syndromic surveillance system tool that can detect, prevent and respond to disease outbreaks. Communities are sensitized to call the 117  line and report all deaths, suspicious illnesses, and events. In Sierra Leone, the 117 Call Center has helped to solve many issues like improving community death reporting through mortality surveillance; real-time alert reporting for infectious death, increasing alert and data support to the maternal & perinatal disease surveillance.

Recently, the 117 Call Center has seen major transformation-from extending the facility and giving it a facelift, to upgrading software for a more efficient system that the peoples of Sierra Leone can trust and utilize.

We have upgraded the call center software for a more accurate and precise data collection. Our community health workers play a very vital role in reporting cases to 117. We have added a new caller category of Community Health Workers. We also provided internet services for all the districts for real-time reporting and data collection for 117. We have also improved on our SMS software service that now provides a single text code to a caller to receive the burial code which confirms that they have indeed called 117.
— Sally Williams, 117 Project Manager, eHA.

In an effort to get the districts more engaged, 117 is not just centralized in Freetown. Alert desks have been set up in all 14 districts with District and Data coordinators there to manage the calls in real time.

The 117 Call Center is making positive strides in the country and the upgrade has taken it to international standard. 117 is easier to rebrand, given its popularity across the country.
— Dr. A.J. Moosa, Deputy Director - Health Security and Emergency.

Strengthening the surveillance system in Sierra Leone through the 117 Call Center is an unending quest.

We are planning on re-branding 117 and utilizing the social mobilization officers especially in the districts so that we can reach a greater number of our communities and encourage people to call 117 for any and all emergencies!
— Sally Williams

The 117 Call Center actively participates in the Surveillance Technical working group of the government of Sierra Leone’s One Health Approach Initiative, where the most updated information is shared as received via our call centers to guide interventions. Every day, the 117 Call Center is striving to produce better quality data to drive the evidence-based approach when handling public health issues in the country.

eHealth Africa renovates Njala University research center with CDC funding

eHealth Africa (eHA) in partnership with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has renovated the  Njala University research center at Tiwai Island, in a drive to support one-health surveillance activities in Sierra Leone. The project was funded by CDC, with the objective of improving knowledge and infrastructure capacity at Njala University research center to perform routine Ebola and infectious disease surveillance.

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Research began on Tiwai Island in the early 1980s, with studies on primates, other mammals, forest dynamics etc. This research was vital for disease and one-health surveillance activities as Sierra Leone, ebola virus disease outbreak was traced to bats and primates. However, over the years, the facility had fallen into disrepair and was unusable. Renovation of the Tiwai Island research center commenced in November 2018. eHA has now completed renovations on the entire campus including storage room; kitchen, meeting areas, and dormitories. The facilities were equipped with solar power, which now provides uninterrupted power on a daily basis, solar powered water supply in order to ensure adequate water supply during the dry season.

Those who had visited the Tiwai Research Center before now, would agree with me that there is much difference after the renovation. We are happy that this facility is now ready for use. Communities and stakeholders associated with Tiwai are very grateful. This was made possible through funding from the CDC and renovations by eHealth Africa.
— Dr. Lebbie, Head of Department of Biological Science, Njala University- Head of the Njala Research Center
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CDC has been working with Njala since the Ebola outbreak. CDC has a strong relationship with the Njala team and helping them to have more capacity to do testing to look for viruses, including the Ebola virus that caused the outbreak here. We are looking for other viruses that are in the environment so that we can know more about our environment, learn to live safely with it, and prevent outbreaks from happening. We want to prevent disease outbreaks, and we’re doing that by helping the people of Sierra Leone find those viruses themselves – to study them here so that they don’t rely on outside help. We have seen great success with Njala University and their team doing this work here. CDC is eager to continue to support that effort because we’re so impressed by what’s been done already.
— Dr. Brigette Gleason, Surveillance and Program Lead CDC Sierra Leone Country Office

These renovated structures go to benefit not only Njala University students and faculty and  Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), but also international researchers.

We will be inviting international auditors who will be resident here to do research; and through that, job opportunities would be opened to the community.’
— Dr Lebbie

Meet the Team - Sonia Khalil

Meet Sonia Khalil, the Procurement Supervisor in our Sierra Leone office!

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Sonia joined eHealth Africa (eHA) over  4 years ago. Her role supports all programs and projects. She is responsible for procurement activities, including managing supplier contracts & relationships, managing efficient distribution of supplies in the supply chain cycle, and providing training internally to ensure good internal control systems. Sonia serves as the lead in the Operations team to ensure procurement processes and procedures are followed.

Sonia’s work with eHA  has made her develop a strong international field experience in supply chain. This role has  further made her diplomatic, cultural and gender sensitive. When Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone, Sonia had the opportunity of taking part in the Ebola Response Management System right from the beginning of the outbreak, where she served as the focal person for all logistical support for the organization.

During the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vaccine trial in 2015, Sonia also supervised the logistics, fleet and procurement staff in preparation and implementation of the project work plan to monitor supplies throughout the clinical trial at the time.

Sonia’s contribution to her team has been remarkable. She has established a good internal control system, provided training and coaching on best procurement practices, established proper procurement policy and templates, practiced with the team fair and transparent procurement structures.

Her greatest achievements have been: managing the initial set-up of the offices and providing a system for the rapid distribution of supplies and logistical support to the various emergency response centers in the districts during initial emergency stage in 2014; participating in program and emergency response strategy planning, participating in the development and deployment of policies for best practices.

Sonia won an award for Outstanding Non-Profit Professional Staff of The Year 2018. The award was presented by the Sierra Leone CEO council at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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We are happy and proud to have Sonia as part of our eHealth Africa team.

Would you like to be a part of our team? Click here to find out more.

eHA supports skill building of Sierra Leone’s Community Health Officers

By Sibongile Chikombore and Sahr Ngaujah

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exposed the need for increasing human resource capacity in  Sierra Leone’s fragile health system. Prior to the launch of the Community Health Officers Management and Leadership Training Program (CHO-MLTP) in 2016, there was no formal training of that nature for health professionals in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Njala University, Emory University, ICAP of Columbia University, and eHealth Africa (eHA) to develop a novel training program to address this need and ultimately improve health service delivery and health outcomes in Sierra Leone. CHOs working at Community Health Centers (CHCs) were targeted to be the first cadre to receive this public health management and leadership training, given their key role as first-line health service providers and chiefdom leaders.

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The aim of the MLTP is to emphasize public health systems thinking and basic management principles needed to run effective health facilities and outreach services. The emphasis of the project is also to strengthen interpersonal communication and engagement with community leaders in order to develop practical and sustainable solutions to longstanding public health challenges.

In Sierra Leone, the Peripheral Health Units (PHU) comprise of  Community Health Centres (CHCs), Community Health Posts (CHPs) and Maternal and Child Health Post (MCHPs). CHCs are headed by a Community Health Officer (CHO). The CHC is usually located at chiefdom headquarter level and provides services to a population ranging from 5,000-10,000 people. The CHP and MCHP are both usually located at smaller villages serving about 5000 or fewer people. They are manned by Community Health Assistants (CHAs) or Dispensers and Maternal and Child Health Aides (MCH-Aides) respectively.

CHO functions at the health center largely include administrative and clinical duties. The clinical responsibilities include treatment and appropriate referrals of medical, surgical and obstetric emergencies. They also supervise the activities of other PHUs in the chiefdom and report to the District Health Management Team (DHMT).

A total of ninety-nine (99) out of one hundred and seventy (170) CHOs across eight (8) districts (Bo, Kambia, Koinadugu, Bombali, Kenema, Kailahun, Western Area Urban and Rural) have been trained so far out of 12 targeted districts nationwide. The CHOs are trained in cohorts, comprised of CHOs from two districts.

As part of the effort towards sustainability and smooth transitioning of the CHO MLTP, selected staff from MOHS and Njala University are being trained as Trainers. Saidu Mansaray, CHO at Kroobay Community Health Center, is one of 99 CHOs who has been trained by eHA through the CHO-MLTP and was subsequently nominated to be part of the key individuals to form the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), Training of Trainers (TOT) team. eHA conducted three TOT sessions for MOHS and Njala University staff who are the key MLTP implementing partners in Sierra Leone.

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I was part of the third cohort studies for the Sierra Leone CHO-MLTP. I was fortunate to be announced as one of the outstanding candidates in the CHO-MLTP Program.’
— Saidu Mansaray

The CHO MLTP has eleven (11) modules covered over a six-month period, with one of the key modules on Quality Improvement (QI). Before a CHO is eligible to graduate, he/she is expected to implement a QI project on either Improving Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Hypertension Screening at their respective health facilities over a three month (minimum) period. The QI aims to address gaps or challenges in health service delivery at facility level on HIV or Hypertension during the MLTP, but the knowledge gained can be later used to apply the QI principles on other health challenges at the facility.

Through implementation of the QI, the CHO and PHU staff are able to work together as a team to brainstorm root causes of the health challenge being faced at the  facility, come up with interventions, and prioritize interventions (based on ease of implementation and how important they are on a scale of one to five). From the prioritization matrix, the QI team from each facility then implements the interventions (also known as “change ideas”) within their own capacity, using the limited resources available.

Saidu implemented an HIV screening QI project at his health facility, where HIV testing rates were low. Prior to the implementation of the QI project, only 26% of eligible persons over 15 years old were tested for HIV. Saidu recognized that increased HIV testing would be necessary to ensure that members of his community know their HIV status and could receive appropriate care. Since the implementation of the QI project at his health facility, the HIV testing rate of eligible persons over 15 years has increased to 81%, and patients found to be positive have also started receiving HIV management care.

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This training has further helped me to manage both logistics and human resources at the facility. I am now able to use the little resources I have in my facility to produce the best of results.
— Saidu Mansaray

Saidu was also nominated to be a TOT participant after showcasing good leadership skills during his MLTP training in cohort three, has attended 3 TOT sessions organized by eHA. In December 2018, Saidu and other CHOs participated in the 3rd ToT session and was captured actively participating during the TOT workshop facilitating and presenting group work assignments to colleagues - see pictures attached below. After the TOT, Saidu and other TOT participants are expected to mentor other CHOs undergoing the MLTP nationwide.

 
I am also currently being trained to pass on the skills learned from the CHO-MLTP Program to others.
— Saidu Mansaray

Internship Spotlight: Eleanor Williamson-Taylor

Eleanor Williamson-Taylor is a programs Intern at eHealth Africa (eHA) in Sierra Leone. She joined eHA in September 2018.  

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Eleanor currently works with the Public Health Workforce Development Team (PHWD). Her role involves liaising and coordinating with various PHWD stakeholders including the Directorate of Human Resources for Health, Directorate of Health Securities and Emergencies, Clinton Health Access Initiative, and U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among other partners to ensure effective collaboration in developing the strategy for development of the public health workforce in Sierra Leone.

She says more in this: