Officials from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, related MDAs, local council officials, traditional leaders and development partners, Tuesday 3rd September 2019, gathered in the Southern District of Bo to map out ways in which human exposure to animal bites could be controlled in different parts of Sierra Leone.This is the first of a two day-meeting in which different stakeholders in the health and agricultural sectors and health experts could highlight the risks associated with dog bites that cause the Rabies disease, which according to reports have been on a rapid increase in the country.
Meanwhile, this is being done using the One Health approach, which according the Communication Pillar Lead in the Directorate of Health Security and Emergency, Harold Thomas is, “bringing all stakeholders on board to create a common pathway in the fight against Rabies”. He pointed out that issues raised during the meetings would be documented and presented to the appropriate health authorities for prompt actions to be taken in the fight against the impacts of dog bites and Rabies. Making a statement on behalf of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Dr. Gernain Bobu, said the meeting was a product of long time discussions from various partners in the fight against animal bites and Rabies. “This is the time to reduce the impact of animal bites in the country if we are to effectively tackle the deadly Rabies strain,” Dr Bobu noted.He went in to say that there should be adequate sensitization at community level on the deadly nature of animal bites and by extension Rabies which is becoming a health security issue. Speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Claudette Amuzu disclosed that there had been 17 suspected deaths as a result of Rabies and over 3, 500 suspected cases of Rabies from 2017 to 2019. However, according to Dr. Amuzu,one of the key factors for the alarming rate of suspected Rabies cases and probable deaths in the country was lack of coordination among health partners over the years. “We are now here to take a look at these issues with one lens with a specific aim of curbing the spread of this health security risk,” Dr. Amuzu pointed out. She added that the deaths emanating from animal bites and Rabies could be controlled, but noted that it can only happen if partners work together for a common purpose. Monica Dea, Global Health Security Advisor USAID, said unvaccinated dogs, lack of disease awareness were causes of high suspected cases of Rabies related deaths. Dea pointed out that Sierra Leone was not making considerable progress in the fight against animal bites and related health risks. She emphasized the importance of the meeting in Bo with health stakeholders which is to map out the way forward in the handling of human exposure to animal bites and Rabies. Representing the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Director of Health Emergency and Security, Dr. Mohammed Vandy said animal bites were the most reported health related cases after malaria in the country. “This has consequently led to an increase in the cases of suspected Rabies,” he pointed out. Dr. Vandy added that, “this is why we are here today to see where we need to focus on in the fight against rabies with our partners for a lasting solution to this seeming health calamity”.
By Abdulai Gbla
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