29 August 2014

Sierra Leone: CDC Chief Assures President Koroma

Tom Frieden, Director of the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid a courtesy call on President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House today Friday, 29th August, 2014.

It was agreed that the Emergency Operations Center should provide the expected leadership in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. President Koroma noted that government has engaged the UN Resident Coordinator, WHO, DFID and other donor partners that are stakeholders in the EOC to review the structure of the center.

The discussions also focused on the number of treatment centers as government is overstretched with only two treatment centers in the country with limited bed capacity. The President expressed hope that the MSF extension of a treatment center in Bo will be completed by the weekend so that they can start admission. He also stressed the need for the establishment of two more treatment centers in Freetown and the north, which government is already working on.

President Koroma also registered his disappointment with the slow response from the international community since the outbreak. "As a country we have substantially reduced the initial challenges of fear, denial, ignorance and misinformation. What we are confronted with now is addressing the fight against Ebola in terms of treatment centers, training of contact tracers and surveillance officers, social mobilization, logistics and equipment that are required," he explained.

The President called on the CDC to help in the area of logistics and experts to come and train the people in the areas of contact tracing, surveillance, and also address the limited equipment and logistical needs of the ministry.

Dr Tom Frieden expressed his admiration for the deep understanding exhibited by President Koroma of Ebola. "Very sincerely, I am very impressed with His Excellency the President's deep understanding of Ebola and what is needed to stop it," the CDC chief said.

He also recognized the need for a national unity approach calling on everyone to address the outbreak before it creates even much more destruction in the country. "This is number one priority for me and CDC. I will do everything in my power to make sure the entire world has that same level of priority to supporting the response here. I will be speaking with a variety of people from the global and in US

on my return, but I really have to emphasize for Sierra Leone that the fastest thing will always be the thing that is at hand, and whatever can be done now should be done. I am certain many more resources will come."

Dr Frieden called on government to use the resources at hand to rapidly get treatment centers established, contact investigation done, clear messages conveyed, such as "don't touch sick people or their body fluids", "don't touch anyone who has died or their body fluids". He concluded by assuring President Koroma that the US government is very committed and the CDC will be here until it's over.

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