News / Africa

    Sierra Leone Working to Prevent Cholera Outbreaks

    A cholera patient lies in a treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres on Macauley Street in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, (File photo).
    A cholera patient lies in a treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres on Macauley Street in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, (File photo).
    Last year Sierra Leone had one of  the worst cholera outbreaks in history - with 23,000 reported cases.  The United Nations says close to 300 people died.  Some measures have since been put in place to prevent another epidemic of what can be an easily preventable and treatable water-borne infection.  
     
    As heavy rain beats down on a market in the east part of Freetown, Adamsay Kamara rushes to cover her basket of bananas for sale. This is how the single mother makes a living at the market which is near her community of Mabela - a slum area of about 20,000 people.

    Mabela was the first community to be hit with cholera in the Freetown area last year and from there it spread.
     
    Kamara said people from international government agencies have since come to talk to her community about cholera prevention and local community volunteers continue to spread the message.

    Still, she's  concerned another outbreak will occur.

    Kamara said she saw four people fall sick and go to the hospital from her community this week and she worries they have cholera.

    Patrick Okoth, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist for UNICEF, said things have improved since 2012 in that there is a consistent cholera task force comprised of international agencies and ministry of health staffers.  

    "We are so many players, here and there, but through the government we  have been able to bring that under one roof. So we are having a consistent  cholera task  force  coordination,  which is meeting on a  weekly basis, and we  are  doing  that  now even  when cases  are  low," said Okoth. "And  that has  helped  us review  cases as  they  come or  reports as they come and we're able to focus our intervention based  on the areas of interest."
     
    Okoth noted that medical supplies were brought in too late last year but that this year measures have been put in place to see that supplies are already in communities across the country. "So, as I speak now, we  have  the basic response supplies in districts which can be used at any time," he said.
     
    Okoth said in addition to these measures, health care workers are now better trained to detect and treat cholera and UNICEF has been working to improve water facilities across the country.
     
    August is the worst month for rain and the time when cholera can peak.

    Doris Ganda, a community health officer in Murray Town - a western area of Freetown said she is only seeing one or two cases per week as opposed to last year where she easily saw more than 10 cases a day. She said one thing that is new and has helped is the time it takes to diagnose cholera. “We have  rapid test  kits, to test for cholera. We collect the sample, send to a surveillance unit, they do analysis and give us the feedback," Ganda said.
     
    The use of text messages is another new tactic.
     
    Raymond Alpha is a health  education and training officer for the Red Cross  in Freetown.  He said there is now a system that sends text messages to people across the country on cholera prevention.
     
    "So this system helps us send  key messages, for instance  just last week,  we sent messages  to almost the entire nation, telling them  it is the rainy season:  beware  of  cholera," Alpha stated. "So this is another system that has  proved quite effective  in helping us prevent a  repeat of what we saw last  year."
     
    But officials do not want to be overly optimistic.

    Sierra Leone Health Minister Miatta Kargbo said while things have definitely improved in terms of prevention more still needs to be done to strengthen labs in the country with better testing equipment to speed the diagnosis and treatment of cholera.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora