The strategic public health emergency preparation assessment and risk profiling in Sierra Leone have been completed.
Sierra Leone has finished public health risk profiling with the assistance of the Strategic Tool to Assess Risk (STAR) and field trials of a new tool that would best benefit the country in terms of preparedness to respond to the health consequences of disease outbreaks as well as natural and man-made disasters. Both of these accomplishments will help Sierra Leone to respond effectively to the health consequences of infectious diseases and natural and man-made disasters.
WHO provided assistance to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) in conducting a five-day intensive workshop with the purpose of identifying, ranking, and prioritizing health-related hazards based on their likelihood, health consequences, the impact they pose to individuals and communities, the vulnerability of those who are exposed, and our inherent capacities to recover from them. The overarching purpose of the exercise was to improve operational preparedness in order to react to a variety of catastrophes using a strategy that took into account all hazards across many sectors.
The most recent STAR evaluation was carried out in 2016, in the wake of the Ebola epidemic that caused widespread devastation throughout the nation. Since that time, a lot has changed in terms of newly developing or re-emerging health risks and hazards that were not imminent or included in the previous evaluation. These risks and hazards were not taken into consideration.
Participants in the exercise came from a variety of government ministries, departments, and agencies, such as the Office of National Security (ONS) and the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA). Additionally, participants came from a variety of health development partners, such as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (AFRICA CDC), GIZ, and FCDO Breakthrough Action, among others working in the human and animal health fields.
Mr. Sahr Gbandeh, the chief national mediator and Services Lead, Emergency Response plans at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergency, outlined the overarching goal of the exercise in his opening remarks. He stated that the purpose of the exercise was “to strengthen the emergency preparedness and risk mitigation capacities in Sierra Leone through the review and development of a new STAR tool.”
Along with the team from the WHO Sierra Leone Country Office, Warren Taylor from WHO HQ, Dr. Daniel Yota, Risk Preparedness and Management Officer for Country Health Preparedness and IHR at WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr. Allan Mpairwe, Risk and Preparedness Officer at the AFRO WHE Emergency Hub in Nairobi provided the process with technical support.
The participants were urged by Dr. Robert Musoke, the Acting Health Security and Emergencies Cluster Coordinator at the WHO Sierra Leone Country Office, to do their absolute best in correctly prioritizing the risks and hazards that face them, as this was the surest way to better prepare for possible occurrences and emergencies in the foreseeable future. Musoke’s remarks were in response to a request made by Dr. Musoke.
According to Dr. Musoke, “We must also be aware that continuous risk assessment is an intrinsic aspect of the framework for the International Health Regulations/Joint External Evaluation (IHR/JEE), and the lack of an up-to-date STAR really impacts the JEE scoring.”
As a follow-up to the five-day exercise, a multi-hazard public health emergency preparation plan will be amended and updated. In addition, hazard-specific contingency plans will be developed for risks that are classed as high and extremely high.