CDC Chief Impressed with President Koroma
By State House Communications Unit
Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States Dr Tom Frieden has described the “Western Area Surge” as a step in the right direction, adding that President Koroma’s leadership of the national response against Ebola is very effective. “Last time when we met I was deeply impressed by your understanding of the virus,” he told the president.
The CDC Director expressed these sentiments during a courtesy call on President Koroma at State House, Freetown where they assessed the response to the outbreak so far. After one hundred days since he last visited Sierra Leone, Dr Frieden’s visit is part of concerted efforts by CDC and other United States Government agencies and international partners to take aggressive steps to control the spreading virus.
Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma stated that the country has made tremendous progress in building its capacity to fend off the disease. “We now have an increase in treatment and holding centers, laboratory capacity has also increased and spread out across the country; a situation that has limited the movement of people from one region to the other for treatment,” he said.
But as the country is working tirelessly on meeting the projected number of labs and bed capacity, the president expressed the need to focus on social mobilization to ensure pockets of denial existing within communities are dispelled and directives given by the medical teams are complied with. He also stressed the need for improved collaboration between the support teams and development partners. “Now that we have enhanced capacity it should be seen out there that we are effective, there are no leakages in response time as well as effective monitoring. We should be more efficient in the delivery of services,” President Koroma emphasized.
He also underlined the need for sub-regional approach and collaboration considering the difficulties associated with accessing remote places along the borders with both Guinea and Liberia, and noted that government was anxious to contain this outbreak by the first quarter of 2015. “We will continue the social mobilization drive, contact investigation and surveillance,” President Koroma said.
Dr Frieden noted that he had seen a phenomenal increase in the response particularly in the number of beds coming on line in the Western District, and explained it was critically important. “You have got your safe burials up faster than Liberia did and now with the “Western Area Surge” and the availability of beds in Port Loko and Western District, you have the isolation capacity in place.” He also expressed hope that within several weeks, “We should see significant decrease in cases here and so I am confident that it will get better.” He reiterated that President Koroma’s community engagement is key, particularly in the Western Area, and continued that the first phase of the approach is to knock down exponential growth, tracing every chain of transmission and finally, strengthening the areas that are Ebola free so that if they get a case they can stop it quickly.
The CDC Chief also called for more AU involvement to help with the outbreak based on their specialization as well as using local resources such as those who know the communities well.
We are thinking of Sierra Leone in terms of access to the vaccine for which Gavi Fund had approved funding, he pledged.
The delegation which was led by Dr Tom Frieden, included the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John F. Hoover, the Charge D’ Affaires Kathleen Fitzgibbon, the Director of CDC Operations in Sierra Leone Dr Morgan, Dr Austin Demby, and other US Embassy Officials.