By State House Communications Unit
The Director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Professor Peter Piot Thursday 18 December assured government of their support in the fight against Ebola through the development of a vaccine that will bring a final halt to the spreading virus. He made this assurance during a courtesy call on President Ernest Bai Koroma at State Lodge, Hill Station.
The distinguished Belgian microbiologist well-known for his research on Ebola and AIDS is in the country to support government’s fight against the disease and discuss how best science, innovation and discovery can better contribute to defeating the virus.
Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma expressed his profound delight for receiving Prof. Piot, who had been involved with Ebola outbreaks since 1976 and has played a significant role trying to bring a closure to the epidemic.
The president recalled that the history of the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone started when the outbreak was announced in neighbouring Guinea and acknowledged that there was not much experience and preparation as to how to control and eradicate the spread of the epidemic, noting that government has been working on the advice of the World Health Organization.
According to President Koroma, there were mixed feelings coupled with arguments, denials and misinformation at the initial stage of the outbreak, and explained that the small size of the country and its closeness to neighbouring borders also accounted for the rapid spread of the disease. “We now have more treatment centres, we have trained more health workers and we have Sierra Leoneans in all the treatment centres across the country,” he disclosed.
The president told the LSHTM delegation that Sierra Leone is still not where it had projected to be in the fight against the virus and lauded the current response measures being put in place by government and development partners, noting that if such support had come earlier, the situation would have been far better by now. President Koroma said that although a lot of people had died of Ebola, a lot more have survived which is telling us that if people report early for treatment the chances of survival are very high. He however noted that unless people stop their usual cultural and traditional practices in their communities, there still remain serious challenges in the fight against the virus.
He reiterated the need to further capacitate the health sector as there are hopes that the figures will subside in early 2015, and underscored the need to provide the kind of platform that will eliminate Ebola not only from Sierra Leone, but also the entire world. He also assured of government’s continued support to work with them to bring a close chapter to the spread of the virus.
The president lamented the fact that Sierra Leone was positioned as one of the first ten countries that was busy rebuilding state institutional capacities with great hopes for the people, when Ebola struck. He therefore implored that a lasting solution be found such as a vaccine to prevent any future outbreak.
Professor Piot described this outbreak as different from previous outbreaks, warning that complacence would be the biggest mistake now as the outbreak will not be over until it is over everywhere in West Africa, and therefore suggested intensified community mobilization as the only solution.
He furthered that before coming to Sierra Leone he had read a lot about the Agenda for Prosperity, through which things were developing in a very positive way, adding that they also want to explore what good things will come out of the crisis, by developing the required research capacity in the health sector.
He therefore called for strong partnership from government with continuous collaboration with the LSHTM in developing a vaccine that will prevent Ebola.