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Postmortem of the three days stay at home “Ose to Ose Ebola Tok Campaign”

Postmortem of the three days stay at home “Ose to Ose Ebola Tok Campaign”

Let me start by asking this thought provoking question: Was the three days stay at home, “Ose to Ose Ebola Tok Campaign” a success or a failure? By and large, the purpose of this piece is to determine, and analyze the entire exercise in order to highlight its success and failure.

Therefore, the information used was gathered through snap and random interviews from government officials, NGO’s workers, EOC volunteers, healthcare workers, people at home and an empirical observation.

According to Mr. Ajibu Jalloh the deputy government spokesperson “the primary purpose of the three days stay at home was for people to get the information, and be educated on how the disease is contracted, the sign and symptoms, and the preventive measures.

Yet, in the same vein during his speech on the eve of the stay at home “Ose to Ose tok Campaign” His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma stated that the three days Ose to Ose Ebola Tok by itself will not end the outbreak, but he said that if everyone follows the messages given to him/her by the teams visiting the homes, the campaign will greatly help to reverse the increasing trend of the disease transmission, and become a very big boost to our collective efforts to stop the outbreak.

Nevertheless, according to the UN agency the number of overall deaths in the region from Ebola had risen to nearly 2,793 and the disease remains “a public health emergency of international concern.”  The deadly virus is transmitted through sweat, blood, and saliva among other means.

Sadly, Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst affected by the outbreak with nearly 600 of the almost 2,800 total deaths recorded so far.

Again was the three days stay at home “Ose to Ose Ebola Tok Campaign” a success or a failure?  According to the EOC press release “it has reached a conclusion that more than 75% of its intended target of reaching 1.5 million households across the country with the correct information on Ebola has been achieved,”

Therefore, one would establish that the above conclusion is based on the following premise proclaimed by the EOC Co-coordinator Mr. Stephen Gaoija who said: “130 new cases had been confirmed which would have helped spread the virus if they had remained undetected, results were still outstanding on 39 suspected cases.|”  “About 100 dead bodies believed to be Ebola victims who could otherwise have been secretly buried without homes being quarantined, were retrieved and buried.”

Conversely, any critical minded and independent observer would be tempted to ask if this same amount of new cases that is being hailed as success story could not have being reported under normal circumstance?  Who buried the 100 dead bodies believed to be Ebola victims?  Was there any contact tracing of any of the individual in question?

Empirical observation

Majority of the people were home, listening to radio messages about Ebola, whilst EOC volunteers and healthcare workers visited homes to disseminate the same messages that were been aired through the radio stations around the country, and gave out stickers and soaps.

Besides, some of the volunteers interviewed confessed that they were nervous on the first day, and lacked confidence; so it is crystal clear that those homes visited by these nervous volunteers didn’t get the correct message.

Also, the call center was overwhelmed with calls and as a result was very slow to respond to calls, and consequently, may have discouraged some people from reporting cases.

However, Mr. Gaoija admitted that ambulances were in short supply, as are the isolation wards to look after the patients. “There were also too few teams available to bury the dead, partly because of the social stigma attached to the role, the exercise has exposed the country inadequate response capability, he concluded.

Interestingly, based on the numbers of phone calls to radio stations around the country from the people at home and coupled with my observation it is not true that all the 1.5 million homes were visited as alleged by Mr. Gaoija. Further exacerbating the challenges was the fact that the major holding center in Jui was not ready as was anticipated by the EOC.

In conclusion, let me humbly say that Mr. Goaija, the EOC coordinator was in a rush to claim success when he had already admitted through BBC interview that the numbers were not available at the same time he had issued a press release asserting a 75% success.  What metrics did he use to make a hasty conclusion?

Equally, the intention and the concept underlying the three days exercise was good, nevertheless, poor preparation made the exercise very challenging as volunteers didn’t get the proper and adequate training required. In the final analysis, valuable lessons were learnt from the three days stay at home, hence it would be germane if those lessons will serve as a catalyst for future exercise.

This is an independent assessment based on interviews and empirical observation done around the city during the three days stay at home. “Ose to Ose Ebola Tok Campaign.”

By Abdul Bero Kamara

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