Civil society in Sierra Leone are once again calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to increase sensitization of Ebola awareness campaigns in the country after confirm cases of the virus in Guinea.
Shiekh Tamba Jusu, the chairman of the Kombra Network in iKailahun district, east of Sierra Leone, said massive sensitization is needed to prevent the spillover of Ebola into the country.
Jusu said the authorities must pay attention to public awareness raisng as part of Sierra Leone’s community engagement efforts in response to the threat of the Ebola epidemic across the border.
“Massive sensitization is what we are asking local authorities to give us support for, and we want them to consider particularly religious leaders to preach to the people through sermons, which is an effective way of appealing to people,” Jusu told KMN.
The Guinean government last week confirmed the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), after four people reportedly died after exhibiting symptoms akin to the hemorrhagic fever disease.
As of Thursday, February 17, reports indicated that the death toll had increased to five, as health authorities struggle to prevent wide spread transmission.
The World Health organization has issued an alert to six countries neighboring Guinea, which are said to be at high risk of transmission of the virus in the event the epidemic gets out of hand. These countries include Guinea’s MRU neighbors – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
The latest Ebola outbreak in Guinea comes nearly five years after the end of the 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic, which also began in Guinea and spread to nine other countries across the world, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. The three MRU countries were the worst affected, as they accounted for most of the cases (nearly 30, 000) and fatalities (over 11, 000).
The 2014 outbreak entered Sierra Leone through Kailahun, which is close to Guinea’s Forest Region. According to local authorities, there are multiple illegal border crossing points between the two countries at that end. And this, says Mr Jusus, is a major concern.
However, Sierra Leone and Guinea have agreed on opening their borders.
Jusus says the reopening of the border has made the job more complicated and requiring more attention to control movement across the borders.
“Strategies are there in place, but we still see the border issue as unfortunate,” he said.
He added: “We cannot do anything about it because it is an agreement between the leaders… but that has increased the work on us, because we have a lot of porous borders. At the moment the Moa River is such that people can even cross it by foot.”