Building on Sierra Leone’s Health Sector-Engaging China

Building on Sierra Leone’s Health Sector-Engaging China

John Baimba Sesay-CHINA

The Government and people of the Republic of Sierra Leone should be applauded for the resilience demonstrated during the trying times following the Ebola outbreak especially in fighting the virus through the nation’s intensive efforts. We indeed were able to show that devoid of other issues, we could come together during challenging times, and the period of the Ebola scourge was one such moment.

At the political front, the presidency was able to provide the required and astute leadership that gave hope to every Sierra Leonean for an eventual end to the scourge. The on-the-spot visitations by the President and lately by his Vice provided stimulating synergy which gave the citizenry the zest to come together for the general good. And indeed we are almost there! Ignore the ongoing political attention-grabbing moves by a certain few, parading across the country, giving the impression they had been involved in the fight. This is a wicked political lie.

The efforts, non sleeping moments and remarkable leadership of President Koroma, coupled with the ‘all-hands-on-deck’ support by Sierra Leoneans, helped brought about the result we today are heading to. The hard work, commitment and dedication to service of our health workers, especially our Doctors and Nurses and those in the Burial Team, Contact Tracers, should not go unnoticed! They performed extraordinarily in the midst of all the challenges. Some were neglected by family members for merely saving lives. The memories of the departed souls shall always live on for the sacrifices they made.

But, that is not all. This is the time to get started for a post Ebola era. The area of human resource capacity building-trainings in specialized fields especially for the health sector should now be of paramount importance in the mindset of the leadership of the Health Ministry. And to this end, I strongly hold the view we should go ‘Asia’ and the south east pacific, with specific reference to China and India.

The Chinese were the first to airlift required medical support and personnel into Sierra Leone following the outbreak of Ebola. This was when other countries were moving out. That support has remained with us, and continues even as we monitor the non-incident period down to the WHO time frame. The Chinese Department of International Cooperation of the National Health and Family Planning Commission has been very crucial in China’s response to the outbreak. Eight (8) Personnel of the Chinese African Aid Expert Team were flown to support the Ebola Virus Disease, and Control the Laboratory Investigations. Also, medical supports of equipment worth Millions of Yuan to fight Ebola were airlifted to Sierra Leone. China, on the request of the Government of Sierra Leone, sent a mobile Laboratory Testing Team to Sierra Leone, equipped with 59 medical experts specializing in laboratory testing.

With such a huge involvement by the Chinese in the Ebola fight in Sierra Leone, that is enough to conclude they have got a wealth of experience that could be of help in terms of trainings and preparedness. On 1st November 2015, a team of 26 Health Professionals- Pharmacists, District Health Sisters, District Medical Officers and Medical Officers, arrived Sierra Leone, following an end to a three week-long training seminar on Public Health Management and Disease Control and Prevention in China. Such training is not only relevant but crucially timely for Sierra Leone, with just less than five days more to be declared by the World Health Organization an Ebola free nation.

Trainings and seminars are virtually needed now more than ever before for our Health Workers. There is the need to making effective use of the resources and infrastructure that the Health Sector has acquired as well as seeking more training opportunities for our Health Professionals in specialized areas. The need to effectively engage countries like China and India in our quest for a better health system cannot be overemphasized.

The Ministries of Health and Sanitation and Education, Science and Technology should work collaboratively together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to seek out and decide on what opportunities friendly nations like China India, amongst others could give.

The yearly Chinese scholarship to Sierra Leone could be made to emphasize and concentrate on having specialized trainings for Doctors, Nurses, and other health workers, especially considering the high level of Chinese involvement in the Ebola fight in Sierra Leone. For the next decade, having an effective national policy scheme that will see 10 students coming to China yearly to study medicine and be specialized will go a long way in upgrading our health sector, and improving our preparedness for challenges like Ebola. Seeking the establishment of more laboratories across the country, especially in the District Headquarter towns, from our friendly countries can also help bring good result in the long term.

In the words of Kumba Alice Momoh, Charge D’Affairs of the Embassy of Sierra Leone in Beijing “In the course of the long standing bilateral relationship between Sierra Leone and China, the Ministry of Commence has been a great pillar fostering our Friendship to maturity. Year after year we have seen MOFCOM’s intervention into Sierra Leone to help in the Human Resource Development of our country, including the Health sector.” Now is the time to act! We are a determined people and with such determination, we are sure of crossing the plethora of challenges brought by the Ebola Virus Disease.

Be a part of it. Let us make it a history that we won the battle against the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone, and in the aftermath, we brought change that brought Sierra Leone from the throes of curable diseases, and many more.

— with Pa Baimba Sesay.

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