Success registered by Koinadugu District insofar as the Ebola fight is concerned has been described by the Chairman of the Central Koinadugu District Coordination Ebola Task Force (CKDCETF), Dr. Fasineh Samoura as “self-grown initiative born out of fear and concern for common safety and welfare in the face of a national crisis.
Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus and disease in the country in March this year, it has spread to almost every region and districts in the country with the exception of Koinadugu District which has up to date not registered a single case of confirmed Ebola.
Over the period, the District Medical Health Team (DMHT) the technical wing of the CKDCETF, has sent over fifteen blood samples for testing at the main Kenema Ebola Test Center and all have proved negative of Ebola virus.
According to Dr. Samoura, no sooner news of the viral attack in Kissi Teng Chiefdom in the Kailahun district reached them in far North of the country, one of their sons, Momoh Konteh mobilized support at the leadership level to come up with “a massive awareness-raising campaign program” to bring on board the vast majority of the people.
Under the aegis of the district’s Ebola coordinating task force, Paramount Chiefs, traditional healers (Tamaborohs), Sowies, hunters, women and youth groups, teachers, traders, drivers, farmers etc were brought on board the awareness-raising campaign.
He said the messages designed by the Task Force are redesigned to suit the culture and tradition of the five ethnic groups in the district namely, Kuranko, Limba, Yalunka, Mandingo and Fullah. “Our messages were therefore well received and encoded because they were simple to comprehend by our mostly illiterate masses,” Dr. Samoura said.
The Task Force Chairman who is himself a Medical Practitioner and has worked for long years with Medicine San Frontiere (MSF) informed all that the Task Force at the district headquarter, Kabala, has since been cascaded to include Paramount Chiefs in the respective Chiefdoms including Community Health Officers.
Hand washing is a complete success in Koinadugu district. To make this user friendly and safer, a local engineering apparatus, a blend of manufactured and local materials was initiated to mitigate the soaring cost of plastic buckets with tap heads. Frames like goal posts are used, made of sticks to which two five-gallons are loosely tied at the top. These gallons are filled with chlorinated water and pin holes bored into them near the plastic lid cover.
Two sets of ropes run loosely down from the top to two sticks each for a gallon that are each tied at the edge and raised at an angle. To wash hands, a person steps slightly on the raised portion of the stick and the weight easily tilts the gallon to an angle that allows water to flow from the bore hole at the gallon’s top. It is found at all major human meeting points in Kabala and all check points. Dr. Samoura said the technology is simple, cost effective and truly hygienic.
All public gatherings, entertainment centers, Summer schools, Lumoh (weekly market days) vehicular transportation of passengers have since been temporarily banned, while transportation of food and other essential commodities in and out of the district is being strictly supervised by the Task Force aided by the army and the police. At the chiefdom and ward levels, traditional healers and hunters are the Community Watchers being that they are every where in the district. They report cases of visitors to town chiefs and Community Health Officers who subject suspects to preliminary observations based on guidelines put up by the DHMT. Any serious matter is immediately reported to the Task Force using mobile phones and VHF Transmitters at health centers.
Koinadugu cannot on its own maintain this feat. It is faced with a lot of challenges including lack of ambulances, Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) drugs and vitamin supplements and funds to continue motivating unsalaried volunteers including the Tamaborohs, Sowies, youth, farmers hunters and others.
It is also challenged with the absence of an Isolation Center where suspects can be put under observation while awaiting confirmation from tests. “We need ambulances, PPEs, drugs and an Isolation Center to keep possible suspects under observation,” Dr. Fasineh Samoura said, adding that the district also needs a quantity of infrared thermometer guns to be used at chiefdom border entry points. As at now, medical thermometers are used and the process of checking is very slow and frustrating.
At a review meeting last Friday in Kabala, speaker after speaker including Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah, Minister of State, Finance and Economic Development, Alhaji Foday B.L. Mansaray, praised Momoh Konteh for his foresight to initiate the district’s early response and lauded the preventive steps taken. They all encouraged the entire people of the district to rally behind the Task Force in this crusade to prevent Ebola from entering the district.
Earlier in his overview, Dr. Samoura described the district’s rally as “a fight for survival” noting that Koinadugu District should not be allowed to fall to Ebola and threw the challenge to the central government to ensure that the district maintains its zero infection posture by coming handsomely to its aid in terms of logistics and funds to support this laudable and an example worth emulating initiative developed and implemented by the people of Koinadugu district and their friendly NGO partners.
By Sayoh Kamara
Tuesday August 19, 2014