IOM Sierra Leone Hosts Cross- Border Coordination Meeting
The monthly cross-border coordination meeting between Kambia District (Sierra Leone) and the Prefecture of Forecariah (Guinea) took place on 10 February 2017 at the District Health Management Team’s (DHMT) complex in Kambia. The meeting attracted participants from a wide array of stakeholders and partners working on disease control and surveillance in both Sierra Leone and Guinea. These include: DHMT Kambia, Department de la Santé (DPS) Guinea, WHO, IOM, CDC, Red Cross, Concern International, eHealth, local NGOs, Community representatives and various Civil Society Organizations.
The meeting was organized purposely to “evaluate and harmonize existing coordination structures/systems for disease surveillance, preparedness and response to potential cross-border public health events”. It also aims to look at ways to improve the current method of information exchange among stakeholders as well as to identify gaps and challenges in preparedness, early warnings, surveillance, response capacity, data capture, information sharing and lab systems in order to remediate them.
Key highlights of the meeting include presentations delivered by variegated technical experts encapsulated the following themes:
• A summary of the surveillance activities, updates/reports and challenges from Kambia
• A summary of the surveillance activities, reports and challenges from Forecariah
• A draft tool for assessing capacities of cross-border Primary Health Units (PHU) in dealing with detection and response to diseases
• A draft medical plan to engage and sensitize communities on matters of community health, disease surveillance and community responsibilities
The usefulness of the cross-border surveillance system initiative was underscored during the meeting when it emerged that thanks to the efficiency of the system in place, a significant number of public health issues have been detected and responded to in the past few months. Indeed, latest epidemiological updates from both sides of the border (Kambia and Forecariah) indicated that some cases of measles were detected, tested and confirmed due to the efficiency of the system. Consequentially, Measles vaccination campaigns have begun and are currently taking place in both districts with variegated coordination.
After their deliberations, the stakeholders agreed on the following series of recommendations as a way of charting the course forward:
• That a database for disease surveillance be created taking into cognizance institutional procedural differences
• That all surveillance reports should be prepared in both English and French in order to facilitate comprehension/understanding by all
• That the draft Media Plan and PHU Assessment tools are to be referred back to the respective subcommittee working on them for further discussions. Moreover, the sub committees should have membership from both Kambia and Forecariah technical teams
• That key outbreak response activities (for example the measles vaccination campaign) could be carried out jointly or at least at the same time in both districts for maximum impact