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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid