The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that no new Ebola cases were reported during the most recent reporting period in Sierra Leone for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in West Africa, thanks to strong community involvement and the thorough work of rapid response teams.
“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,” said WHO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Anders Nordstrom.
According to the UN health agency, Sierra Leone is now down to a single chain of transmission, which started in Freetown but sparked a cluster of cases in the district of Tonkolili in the northern region of the country.
Although Tonkolili had not seen a case of Ebola for more than 150 days, WHO said the Government, WHO and other UN and international partners sent a rapid response team into the district and worked with the village chief and village taskforce to identify and monitor everyone who had been in contact with the virus.
“An epidemiological week has now passed with no new Ebola cases for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak,” according to WHO, which issues weekly updates on the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 11,000 people mostly in the hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
WHO said effectively tracking chains of transmission means finding every person who has been in contact with someone proven to be infected with Ebola, monitoring them closely for symptoms for 21 days and rapidly moving them to a treatment centre if they develop symptoms of potential Ebola.
Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has announced that it and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have kick-started a project to reintegrate volunteer workers who have been on the front line fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone but have faced stigmatisation and endured huge psychological stress.
The project will receive $1.9 million, initially to help 800 first responders with vocational training and reintegrating them back into their communities.
UNDP Director for Sierra Leone Sudipto Mukerjee said this was a historic initiative for Ebola recovery and urged communities “to embrace these young people as heroes.”
UNDP is working together with other agencies to get the number of Ebola cases down to zero, as well as helping the government of Sierra Leone develop a national recovery strategy to rebuild the livelihoods of those most affected and strengthen the government’s capacity to restore essential services.