Liberia Expands Cross Border Screening To Combat Spread Of Ebola
With no new Ebola cases in Liberia, but ongoing transmission in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea, IOM is expanding its work to reinforce Liberia’s cross-border screening of travellers and its surveillance capacity.
Under a new project funded by USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), IOM will work with County Health Teams (CHTs) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) Disease Prevention and Control Division to provide key resources, training and mentoring support to major ports of entry and border communities in Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland counties.
“Liberia has experienced the third wave of Ebola and as we move forward it is critical that border surveillance activities are heightened to ensure early detection of imported cases, identification, tracking and monitoring of potential high risk contacts,” says Thomas Nagbe, Director of the MoH Disease Prevention and Control Division and Chair of the National Disease Surveillance Technical Coordination Committee.
“With intermarriages, bloodlines and daily trade across borders, it is also important to engage key networks in communities to develop early warning surveillance systems. IOM has been working with us and is playing a critical role as the secretariat and part of the technical team driving the country’s border strategy to prevent Ebola transmission,” he notes.
To enable free and safe cross-border movement, IOM will train key immigration and health actors at prioritized border posts and checkpoints to improve efficiency and quality of entry and exit health screening procedures. This will be backed by support to improve infection prevention and control standards, provide isolation spaces, facilitate health referrals and aid reporting to the national disease surveillance structure.
Through local organizations, IOM will also provide training, tools and monitoring to enable border and vulnerable migrant communities to sustainably conduct community events-based surveillance and systematically report for prompt public health responses.
“In this critical moment in the fight against Ebola in the region, it is essential to support areas that are hard to reach and affected by human mobility, particularly border areas. Thanks to this US funding, IOM will be able to scale up its support for the MoH, while working with community-based organizations to ensure sustainability and full outreach to target communities. This will strengthen surveillance capacity in border areas, in line with international health regulation requirements and the national integrated disease surveillance strategy,” says IOM Liberia Chief of Mission Salvatore Sortino.
Since March 2015, IOM has supported health screening and surveillance efforts at border points and within border communities through the multi-partner Border Coordination Group and direct support to Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa and Bomi CHTs.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted high mobility of populations and cross-border movement of infected travellers as a major government challenge to containing the spread of Ebola in West Africa. As such, it is widely acknowledged that until all three countries are free of Ebola transmission, vigilance by all actors, particular along the region’s porous borders, must continue.
Since the outbreak in March 2014, 10,672 of the region’s 27,748 infections were reported in Liberia, with over 4,808 deaths out of a total of 11,279.