By Kadrie Koroma
Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister 1, Madam Madina Rahman has said that the 117 is symbolic to the emergency response and was a successful tool that contributes to curbing the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in Sierra Leone.
Speaking during the handing over and re-launch of 117 health alert system by UKaid/eHealth Africa to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation at the Public Health National Emergency Operations Centre, Cockerill Barracks at Wilkinson Road in Freetown, Madam Madina Rahman described the event as another beginning for the Health Ministry.
Group photo of Senior Ministry officials, partners and 117 staff
Moving forward on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation priorities as a sustainable public health tool, the Deputy Minister informed her audience that the vision is to prevent public health threats and death while promoting the health of the people of Sierra Leone through the use of the 117 public health hotline.
Madam Madina Rahman and Guy Warrington cutting the tape to
officially open the 117 centre
Madam Rahman stated that the short to medium term goal is to use the 117 to strengthen the national disease and mortality surveillance system including surveillance of maternal and child deaths, suspicious infectious cases in communities and health facilities.
She reiterated that the 117 is now a robust surveillance system put in place for the reporting of public health events or threats by the general public including health workers for further investigation and action by the team of health officials.
The Deputy Minister disclosed that the implementation of the vision calls for cooperation and collaboration from the people to make it a success, and stated that contrary to public understanding that 117 is not an Ebola line, but a public health hotline now used to support the health sector’s priorities in promoting the health of the people.
She expressed gratitude to UK for the investments in the system over the past three years and their support of development, and thanked CDC Foundation and the World Bank for their ongoing support of the Ministry’s agenda in transitioning 117 into a sustainable long term tool.
British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington said the United Kingdom government committed a total of 427 million Pounds to ending the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington
He said as part of a 13.7 million pounds package of support to the Ebola Response Consortium, the UK government has been supporting the 117, adding that with UK funding more than 300 dispatchers and operators were trained to take calls. He added that at the height of the Ebola crisis, they were receiving an average of 6,000 alerts of suspicious deaths and sickness per week, and dispatching these to district to ensure timely and coordinated action.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer II and chairman for the ceremony, Dr. Amara Jambai underscored the importance of the 117, adding that it was critical during the Ebola outbreak for reporting suspected deaths.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer II, Dr. Amara Jambai
He said it was one of the most powerful community engagement tools during the time and showed them the commitment of the community towards helping the country fight the deadly disease.
Other highlights include statements by the Deputy Country Director, eHealth Africa, Dayo Spencer-Walters and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) representative, Dr. Reinhard Kaiser.
An official opening and conducted tour of the new 117 centre formed high point of the event.