By ABC Communications Unit
The Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (ABC) Secretariat during its nationwideEbola Education and Preventive Measures Enforcement campaign has commended the people of Kambia District for their effective response in the fight against Ebola in the district. The Secretariat started its four day education exercise from Thursday, 20th November, with consultation of the coordination and technical teams and other relevant stakeholders.
Kambia District is one of the districts that has chronicled the least number of Ebola cases in the country even though it is a boundary district with the Republic of Guinea where the disease started in West Africa and also borders with Port Loko an epicenter of the disease.
The Executive Director of the Secretariat Dr. Ivan Agibola Thomas at diverse fora informed stakeholders that the aim of the visit was to conduct an Ebola Education and Preventive Measure Enforcement Campaign and urged the people of Kambia to continue to be very vigilant in their response towards the disease. He revealed that the Secretariat is conducting an embedded investigation on the challenges which the disease posed so that necessary actions will be taken to eradicate the Ebola virus in the country.
Dr. Thomas enlightened that to influence positive attitude the Secretariat is advocating for compliance to all professional and medical advices, and all by-laws.
Members of the ABC Sect. at a Meeting with Kambia District Ebola Response Committee.
The National Coordinator and Second-in-Command of the Secretariat Madam Nanette Thomas told stakeholders that the Secretariat is very impressed with the low number of Ebola cases in the district amidst the fact that the district has a lot of porous border points with Guinea where the disease emanated from and also Port Loko which is an epicenter.
Madam Thomas commended the stakeholders for the robust strategies that they put in place to ensure that they contain the virus, she praised the people of the district for adhering to the call of the government to fight against the disease, and urged other districts in the country to emulate the example of the people of Kambia District.
”The moves of the people of Kambia District are clear indications that they are very positive towards the eradication of Ebola in the country” She stated, and furthered that Sierra Leone will not win the war against Ebola if people continue to cling onto some of their cultural and traditional practices such as the rites of passage relating to burial ceremony. She advocated that people must comply to the professional medical advice to reduce the rate of Ebola transmission in the country.
Revealing the secret behind their success to supress the rate of Ebola transmission in the district, the Paramount Chief for Magbema Chiefdom that hosts the district headquarter P.C Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV informed the Secretariat that the district was very proactive in their response towards the virus, ”We started our Ebola sensitisation when the disease was in Guinea because we know that we are very close to Guinea” he disclosed.
P.C Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV of Magbema Chiefdom
The Paramount Chief explained that they had their first taskforce meeting comprising of the Senior District Officer, the Local Unit Commander, Head of Office of National Security, the District Medical Officer, himself and other chiefdom and district stakeholders on the 1st of April, 2014 before the first Ebola case was reported in Sierra Leone in May and they started drafting mechanisms since then on how they were going to tackle the virus if it eventually break up in the country.
According to the P.C, another part of the taskforce strategy that is helping to curb the Ebola virus is the decentralization of the taskforce from district to chiefdom and section levels, to enable every community to be very vigilant in the fight.
P.C. Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV noted that the police are over stretched in the district, so he organized his people to mount checkpoints in the borders. He revealed that the okada riders are transporting sick people after the official hours of operations, and that the bye-laws are strictly enforced to limit the movement of sick persons into the district. He initiated a bye-law that prohibits private bikes from plying the chiefdom after 7:00pm, because it was noticed that some people were using private bikes to transport sick people from one point to another.
”I have made it as part of our bye-laws that any bike that is caught after 7:00 pm should pay a fine of two hundred thousand Leone (Le 200,000)” he disclosed, and that the money accrued will be used by the taskforce for the provision of logistics.
P.C Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV in together with ABC Staff
Another significant regulation that the district enforced to curb the Ebola virus was that, any person that has taken three weeks outside the district should not be allowed to sleep in the district, and that if anyone lodges any stranger without the prior notice of the Paramount Chief, that person will be finned five hundred thousand Leones (Le 5,00,000).
The Paramount Chief and the taskforce last week, conducted a house-to-house search for sick persons and in the process they were able to take out all the sick persons for treatment. It was found out that almost all the Ebola cases in the district are people from other parts of the country.
”We have put a target that before December 25th, 2014 we should not have any Ebola case in the district again and the authorities are working relentlessly to ensure that we meet that goal”. He also revealed that fines will be levied for touching such as handshaking and hugging.
In his explanation of why Kambia District is recording low number of Ebola viral infection in comparative analysis with others, the District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr. Foday Sesay revealed that they have a strong social mobilisation team in the district, and also reiterated that the district started their social mobilisation at the time when the disease was in Guinea. This he said is in combination of government’s and other stakeholders’ efforts to eradicate Ebola in the country.
Dr. Sesay explained that the district always act promptly whenever they have an Ebola case by tracing the history of the particular case and ensure that the house of that case is quarantined. He sustained that this has helped to contain the disease in communities that were regarded as the Ebola epicentre in the district such as Cucuna, Soria, Workinfor, Madina and Rokupr.
The DMO spoke of team spirit good working relationship between stakeholders in the district with a single aim of keeping the district free from Ebola and that has helped greatly in the Ebola fight in the district.
Despite the success stories of the district in minimizing the infectious cases of Ebola, the district is facing some challenges in completely eradicating the virus. The DMO disclosed that they did not have enough funds to carry out all their activities, and that reduction of the salary of surveillance personnel from five hundred thousand Leon (Le 500,000) to two hundred thousand Leones (200,000) caused some problems for us at certain point in time.
Dr Sesay also told the ABC team that there have been circumstances when people stoned their burial team, but the police was vigilant to interfere in such circumstances, people do give wrong information to contact tracers which thereby stifle the smooth running of the operation particularly for those who needed real assistance and support.
Regarding food distribution to quarantined homes, the Kambia District Ebola Response Committee disclosed that there is always late response to their request for food for quarantined homes, and also World Food Programme (WFP) did not have a storage facility in the district so food are transported from Port Loko to Kambia, and there is also the challenge of transportation.
The Secretariat also met with youth groups in the district such as the Brigade Youth Group. In addressing the group, the Programme Manager of the Secretariat Mr. Ishmael Cole, told the youth that the Secretariat is the institution that is charged with the responsibility to influence positive attitude and behaviour in the country and encourages the youth to join hands in the fight against .
The Secretariat in another move also witnessed food distribution to quarantined homes in the district, Ebola Preventive Control Training at the Government Hospital and also undertook radio discussion programmes as well as public address campaign on Ebola Education and Preventive Measures Enforcement that was centered on the attitudes and behaviours of people towards the disease.
One of the Secretariat’s vehicles with loud speakers disseminating Ebola messages to the People of Kambia in different languages.