Ray of hope of Sierra Leone achieving Zero Ebola cases by mid-July

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 June 2015

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This week saw the weekly confirmed Ebola cases reported in Sierra Leone reaching a two-month high of sixteen cases, up from only two a month ago – says the International Office for Migration (IOM) in Sierra Leone.

In a report published today, IOM says that each day, thousands of travellers cross the international border between Kambia in Sierra Leone and Forecariah in Guinea. This corridor between the capital cities of Freetown and Conakry remains a major hotspot area, despite significant humanitarian interventions, it warns.

IOM says that the new caseload has seen the president of Sierra Leone declare a 21-day surge, known as Operation Northern Push in Kambia and Port Loko, with a ‘strictly enforced’ 6am-6pm curfew and travel ban in place, in a concerted effort to get to zero new cases by early July.

Three weeks ago,  IOM Sierra Leone announced that it had activated Phase II of its Health and Humanitarian Border Management (HHBM) project in Kambia District.

IOM says that it is providing 100 per cent monitoring of the entry-exit health screening process at the Category A (permanently manned infrastructure in place) international border crossing with Guinea at Gbalamuya, with the deployment of 25 IOM monitors that are in operation in 8 hour shifts – 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Phase I of the project which focused on supporting the establishment of a robust health screening process at the air border of Lungi International Airport ended on 17 May.

Supported by a new project donor – the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the organisation also says that it is scaling up operations to include land borders with Guinea in Kambia and Bombali districts and seaports in Freetown, while continuing airport activities.

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The organisation is supporting the health screening process through dedicated health screening equipment resupply and management, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and health screening training, evaluation of the screening process through the US CDC Scorecard and traveller data collection and management.

HHBM Project Manager Ben Potter said: “Prior to recent IOM involvement, the health screening process on the Kambia border was somewhat haphazard and inconsistent with travellers displaying a tendency to avoid health screening, due to a lack of both human resources and physical infrastructure.”

He added: “IOM’s deployment of newly recruited monitors, trained by senior monitors based at Lungi International Airport, has had an immediate impact on the health screening process in ensuring that all travellers conduct hand washing, and are sufficiently health-screened and sensitized on EVD.”

“Training is a major part of the HHBM project and a good way to build capacity on the ground,” said Yayah Yansaneh, IOM Monitor at Lungi Airport.

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