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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More