Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2015
According to the ministry of health in Freetown, the recently concluded International Conference on Africa’s fight against Ebola held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea focused on the need for Africa to help itself in the Ebola recovery and reconstruction.
The conference was attended by African heads of states, African Union foreign affairs ministers, ministers of health, health professionals, and representatives from the African Development Bank, World Bank, UNOCHA, WHO, UNECA and other development partners and NGOs.
The team from Sierra Leone was led by President Ernest Bai Koroma, which included the minister of health and sanitation – Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, deputy chief medical officer – Dr. Sarian Kamara, and cabinet ministers.
Statements were delivered by the respective heads of state of the three Ebola affected countries – Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Alpha Konde – President of the Republic of Guinea, and Joseph Nyumah Bollan – Vice President of the Republic of Liberia.
Sierra Leone’s minister of health and sanitation – Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah chaired the ministerial meeting, whilst the Experts meeting was chaired by the deputy chief medical officer – Dr. Sarian Kamara.
Sierra Leone’s delegation told the conference that there is need to strengthen the country’s health system post Ebola, especially as the country has witnessed declining performance of its economy. (Photo: Minister of health – Fofanah).
Lessons learned by health agencies and the government include; community engagement and participation, adoption of simple hygiene procedures, utilization of technologies of information and communication to contact people in health emergencies, necessity to diversify economy to avoid shocks in specific areas, accountability streamlining of expenditure to achieve cost effectiveness in health service delivery, and socio-cultural issues affecting the handling of the deceased which may impede execution of well-established health protocols.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, affecting mainly Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is a first time disaster in the region and the biggest Ebola epidemic in terms of size, with an impact the world has never faced, the conference heard.
Sierra Leone’s Short-Term Achievements
Delegates reported that all national hospitals are now reopened and started delivering services to the public, treating a total of 16,000 HIV infected persons brought back to the treatment programme, making treatment available at diagnostic treatment centres, and sustained the Ebola services through building capacity and resilience.
The Sierra Leone delegation presented a budget line for the next six months which is in line with the funding gap of USD35 million for the next three years. There is request for debt cancellation so as to reduce dependency on external funding. There is need to also mobilise domestic resource in the country. (Photo: Sarian Kamara – Deputy Chief Medical Officer).
Sierra Leone has experienced a 23 percent decrease in its GDP, due to the closing of mines because of the Ebola outbreak. Against this backdrop, there is need to step up involvement of the private sector to bridge the financing gap.
Nutrition was identified as one of the main public health issues, including access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation. These were highlighted by the Sierra Leone delegation as prerequisites to fighting epidemics. They also form part of the post Ebola Recovery and Reconstruction Plan and Budget, so as build strong health systems in the country.
Priority areas by Ministers of the affected countries
Following the presentations by the three affected countries, the ministers identified the following key priority areas:
Strengthening health systems
Getting to zero-elimination of new Ebola infection
Improved management and decentralization of health service delivery
Sustained partnership until zero Ebola infection attained at regional level
Debt cancellation in the three Ebola affected countries
Trans-boundary collaboration as a fundamental tool to affectively curb the infection
Sustain increase domestic financing to invest in primary health system
Strengthen prevention and surveillance
Involvement of the private sector
The development of strong cohort of community health workers
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is not only the largest, it is also the most complex as it has affected mainly countries that had been previously ravaged by civil war, with very weak public health systems and lacking in basic social service delivery systems, delegates heard.
The number of cases and deaths from this Ebola epidemic is more than all previous Ebola epidemics combined. Since Ebola discovery in 1976 till December 2013, the world has experienced 23 outbreaks, 2388 human cases including 1590 deaths.
The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, according to WHO report of June 24, 2015, states that 27,443 human cases including 11,201 deaths are yet to be updated.
The ‘Africa helping Africans’ in the Ebola Recovery and Reconstruction Malabo Conference having assessed the loss of human life and suffering and the socio-economic impact, made recommendations based on the needs of the three affected countries which are to be addressed by the member states of the African Union.
The conference recommended the following for adoption and action:
Human resources for health service delivery
Provision of medical equipment
Training of health workers in various medical fields and capacity building
Strengthening health infrastructures
Strengthening infection and prevention control
Establishment of regional hubs to support country hospitals
Sustainable provision of medicines and supplies
Bridging short term financial gaps