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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs