On August 17, Sierra Leone began to display signs of truly positive results — an epidemiological week had passed, and Sierra Leone reported no new Ebola cases since the beginning of the outbreak in 2014.
Efforts in Sierra Leone have now entered what is known as “Phase 3,” in which efforts are concentrated on swiftly closing any remaining chains of transmission that may remain. This procedure involves tracking down every single person who may have come into contact with the chain, monitor the subject for 21 days and immediately transfer them to a treatment center if symptoms begin to develop.
As of now, there exists only one remaining open chain that has its source in Freetown and extends into Tonkolili. The chain was carried via a young man who used to worked in Freetown and returned home each month with food and money for his family.
Dr. Anders Nordstrom, WHO representative in Sierra Leone, asserts, “This is very good news but we have to keep doing this intensive working with communities to identify potential new cases early and to rapidly stop any Ebola virus transmission.”
The WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, has called for reforms throughout her organization in order to facilitate future preparations for potential similar outbreaks, “including the establishment of a global health emergency workforce, an operational platform that can shift into high gear quickly, performance benchmarks and avenues aimed at acquiring the needed funding.”
As recovery in West Africa begins, it is important not to forget that the outbreak had far-reaching consequences for many vulnerable populations. For example, 70,000 Liberian children were not registered at birth during the outbreak, leaving them “vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion,” as well as unable to access social services and healthcare, without official identity documentation and at risk of being trafficked or unlawfully adopted.
In 2013, before the outbreak took place, Liberia had about 79,000 registered births. In 2014, due to medical facilities’ closures, registered births decreased 39 percent to a mere 48,000. Sierra Leone also experienced the same drop in birth registrations during the outbreak, as demonstrated in a recent registration and vaccination campaign in which 250,000 children were in need of registration.
– Jaime Longoria