Ministry of Health and Sanitation Concludes Full Scale Simulation Exercises

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The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), has concluded a week-long full scale simulation exercise to test its readiness for potential public health emergencies. The exercise, named ‘Operation Lion Mountain,’ simultaneously tested Sierra Leone’s public health capabilities to respond to a severe health emergency in a coordinated response effort. The exercise was led by the MOHS’s Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies, its public health partners in Bo and Western Urban districts, and emergency management specialists from CDC, WHO, ANSER, and eHealth Africa. Exercise players were staff trained in public health emergency preparedness and response and numerous volunteers.

Five years after the start of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that resulted in over 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, the exercise simulated sudden confirmation of several Ebola cases in Bo that rapidly spread to Freetown. (Please note this was just a drill and there are currently no Ebola cases in Sierra Leone). The exercise tested the preparedness of essential technical aspects of such an outbreak. Simulation activities included surveillance and 117 phone alert systems allowing rapid case identification, notification and isolation, laboratory testing to confirm cases, infection prevention and control to prevent transmission in communities and health facilities, risk communication to educate the population, and systems for documentation and reporting. The exercise also posed the question to players how to get an experimental Ebola vaccine into the country, transport it under cold chain conditions to outbreak areas, and use it to control the outbreak. The Ebola vaccine has been used during the West Africa epidemic and currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been shown to be safe and effective to protect against the Ebola virus disease. By conducting a full scale functional exercise, the MOHS was able to validate public health emergency systems, policies and procedures, in compliance with the monitoring and evaluation framework for the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

The exercise will impact future WHO Joint External Evaluation (JEE) scores in Sierra Leone by showing “demonstrated” and “sustainable” capacities in emergency response coordination, Emergency Operation Center (EOC) operations, and emergency management. The U.S. government is supporting the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through CDC, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to strengthen the health systems for effective service delivery and build rapid response and resilience to combat public health emergencies.

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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