FETP graduates and trainees at the front of fighting COVID-19 pandemic
After the historic catastrophic Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including Sierra Leone, AFENET has been supporting Sierra Leone to build the public health workforce capacity of the country. AFENET, in collaboration with the US CDC and Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) has trained more than 201 field epidemiologists, which the country lacked during the Ebola period.
As part of Sierra Leone COVID-19 response, the field epidemiologists have played critical role in COVID-19 case detection, notification, and investigation and they are working at various levels of the healthcare system: national, district, and sub-district levels.
Currently, this cadre of FETP graduates and trainees are at the frontline fighting the pandemic, breaking the transmission chain, and saving the lives of their communities. The epidemiological picture of the outbreak is also analysed to ensure that interventions are data driven.
Early detection, investigation, and isolation of cases, alerts, and contact identification which are the main strategies to stop the transmission of the virus are the core activities of the frontline responders. They have traced the source of infection for more than 56% of the cases, which is the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, and also identified their contacts and removed them from the community before they spread the virus further.
Dr. James Squire, the National Surveillance Program Manager and also the COVID-19 surveillance pillar lead, at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and a graduate of the FETP said “Having this FETP course for us, Sierra Leonean, is critical for such outbreaks. We want to have a pool of competent field epidemiologists and experts in outbreak investigation and response on whom the country can rely on to tackle this type of public health emergency and others and to build a resilient and responsive public health system”. Dr. Squire added in his remark during a supervisory visit to district level FETP responders that “If we had been trained in FETP during the Ebola outbreak, we would have controlled it early and we would not have lost thousands of Sierra Leonean lives”. He then appreciated for the US CDC and AFENET for supporting the country to build the public health system.