The Honourable Minister for Health of South Sudan, Dr Riek Gai Kok and his entourage which included a 1976 Ebola survivor, Samaritan Purse and ICRC visited the WHO supported Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Juba.
"Thanks to WHO, South Sudan now has a place to isolate and treat Ebola patients in a conducive environment which protects them from infecting their family and community", said Dr Kok, after visiting the unit which was constructed with the support of WHO. Visibly impressed with the design and quality of the unit, the Minister said that the unit will not only be used for treating Ebola but as 'a training and treatment unit for other infectious diseases'.
The cost-effective 24-bed capacity unit which was built using prefab containers has suspected/confirmed cases wards, a patient disinfection area, a mortuary, triage and a nursing station, will also contribute to wider epidemic preparedness and response activity in the country.
This unit was built as part of the ongoing Ebola preparedness and will be used for training and simulation in real-time, isolation of alerts from Juba and its environs and treatment of cases.
Given the high risk of cross border transmission of the disease into South Sudan from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), WHO and partners are working to support the Ministry of Health to scale up and test operational readiness for a potential Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response.
Conducting the entourage around the unit, Mr Alex Freeman, the WHO Logistician stressed that it was built using appropriate materials and systems to ensure maximum infection prevention and control. This will ensure adequate protection of staff, patients and prevention of environmental contamination.
"The establishment of the ETU is based on lessons learnt from the West Africa outbreak and the need for us to prevent the mistakes of the past" said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan.
As part of its efforts to scale up the preparedness activities, WHO also deployed over 15 experts in the area of Ebola coordination, risk communication, case management, laboratory, infection prevention and control as well as vaccine management to the high risks states of Yambio, Yei, Torit (Nimule) and Wau in response to the re-classification of South Sudan to "very high risk" from "high risk" status.
Dr Olu also reiterated WHO's commitment to support the Ministry of Health to ensure an enabling environment to prevent and control Ebola in South Sudan.
At the end of the tour, the Minister (through the Undersecretary, Dr Makur Matur Kariom) thanked WHO and all partners for their support to the Ebola preparedness efforts of the country.