To strengthen the health security and emergency capacity to implement the Emergency Preparedness and Response initiatives in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization, in partnership with Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have kicked off a one week-long scooping mission in the country. The mission will work jointly with the Government of Sierra Leone to identify priority areas and engage with its partners in articulating a shared vision for strengthening health security and emergencies.
This initiative follows a recommendation by African Health Ministers to adopt a new strategy to transform health security in the region during the seventy-second session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Lome in August 2022, and forms part of the WHO regional Strategy for Health Security and Emergencies 2022-2030, which aims to strengthen member states capacities to effectively prepare, detect and respond to public health emergencies through three flagship programs including Promoting the resilience of systems for emergencies (PROSE), Transforming African Surveillance Systems (TASS), and Strengthening and Utilizing Response Groups for Emergencies (SURGE).
“The Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Flagship Scoping Mission 2023 exemplifies WHO’s global commitment to equitable health preparedness and response.
Together with Sierra Leone, we are dedicated to fortifying healthcare systems and crisis readiness, ensuring the well-being of the nation’s people,” said Dr Innocent Nuwagira, WHO Country Representative in Sierra Leone.
“In this collaborative endeavor with Africa CDC, WHO is focusing on solidarity and preparedness, striving for a healthier and more resilient Sierra Leone and contributing to enhanced global health security. Our shared mission is to protect and improve the lives of all those we serve,” adds Dr Nuwagira.
This mission reinforces a statement of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, “We must stop the cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemic preparedness; we don’t want COVID-19 to repeat, we don’t want vaccine nationalism to repeat, and we don’t want people dying from lack of oxygen to repeat.”
Ministry of Health
The Deputy Minister of Health in Sierra Leone, Dr. Charles Senessie said; “there is a lot we can learn from past pandemics like the Ebola virus and COVID-19. These global health crises often strike when least expected, which is why we welcome this initiative as a nation. We are eager to work with the team, exchange knowledge, draw from our collective experiences, and enhance our preparedness for future pandemics.”
The African Region faces a high burden of public health emergencies with increasing complexities, and although progress was made in the past, the COVID-19 epidemic has again exposed gaps in health emergency preparedness and response and health systems in general. This calls for urgent further strengthening of emergency prevention, preparedness, response, and resilience capacities at the country level, including in Sierra Leone.
During the mission, consultative meetings on Strengthening and Utilizing Response Groups for health security and emergencies will be held with different stakeholders, and the findings will inform the development of strategic plans and initiatives that will help Sierra Leone better prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. Through this mission, health authorities will Identify areas for the strengthening of the healthcare system, evaluate and improve health infrastructure, enhance capacity for emergency preparedness and response, and develop strategies that ensure the continuity of essential health services during emergencies.
Already, Sierra Leone has undertaken several initiatives, including the piloting of the Universal Health Preparedness and Response, the Joint External Evaluation and identification of a diverse group of personels than can be rapidly deployed in cases of emergencies, both in the country and other countries in the region and elsewhere. In the coming weeks and months, through this partnership, the identified persons will be prioritized and trained and equipped with the relevant skills for deployment within 72 hours of need.
The scoping mission represents a crucial step in safeguarding the health and well-being of the population in Sierra Leone and strengthening the country’s resilience to emerging health threats. Once completed, the mission will develop a set of recommendations that will inform a two-year roadmap for actions tailored to specific needs to strengthen epidemic preparedness and emergency response in Sierra Leone, and will contribute to the country’s national Action Plan for Health Security.