Deputy Chief of Mission Kathleen FitzGibbon
October 25, 2014
Over the past weeks, Sierra Leone’s Ebola emergency response is getting better footing.
A significant achievement occurred on October 23 when 100% of all corpses were removed within 24 hours of the report. In addition, 44 of the 46 bodies were buried the same day.
This is a huge milestone toward the goal of achieving 70% safe burials nationwide.
Congratulations to the RSLAF, the Red Cross, and Ministry. Cases in Kenema and Kailahun have decreased from a high of 50 per week to four per week.
This is another significant achievement showing that rigorous infection control, availability of treatment beds, trained staff, and safe burials form a winning combination.
Spikes in cases can be traced to unsafe or “underground” burials.
Today, the Ambassador and I visited the new National Ebola Response Center (NERC) operations center at the former Special Court and the Western area incident management center set up at the British Council auditorium. The NERC will hold its first meeting in its new place on Monday.
This nerve center will collect information from the districts and use it for directing resources back to them.
All key players will be co-located: government, RSLAF, UNMEER and UN agencies, Centers for Disease Control, UK, and implementing partners. This will provide daily accountability for response activities and streamline problem-solving and trouble shooting.
The Western area incident management center is a hub of activity with sections including burial management overseen by the RSLAF, suspect case pick ups, case management, and surveillance activities.
Kerry Town Treatment facility is set to open this upcoming week. Lunsar Treatment Center’s opening may be November 15. The UK, WHO, and US through CDC, are piloting ten Community Care Centers in the coming weeks to put small care units in the chiefdoms.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is putting hundreds of health care workers through training to staff them at the joint MOHS/WHO/UK-supported center. Infection rates among health care workers have decreased.
Despite these bright spots, nationwide we are still far from our objective of 70% safe burials and 70% isolation nationwide.
Vigilance is required as Freetown, Waterloo, Port Loko, and Bombali District remain key infection areas.
The first Ebola cases were reported in Koinadugu. WHO, CDC, and MOHS are there identifying cases, tracing contacts, and working with local authorities.
Unfortunately, the local community is somewhat resistant, secret burials are occurring, and traveling in the district is difficult.
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Source: US Department of State: Embassy Freetown, Sierra Leone