The workshops were organized in four thematic groups with each group focusing on four to six technical areas
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, March 18, 2022/ — Sierra Leone has completed its annual health security capacity assessment and operational planning across various sectors aimed at strengthening implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) in the country. The assessments and planning were carried out through a series of multisector workshops on global health security which culminated in the compilation of the 2021 IHR Joint External Evaluation (JEE) Self-Assessment Scorecard and development of the 2022 National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) Annual Operational Plan.
The workshops were organized in four thematic groups with each group focusing on four to six technical areas. Each group conducted its workshop for 3 days and this culminated in the plenary session attended by all participants from 10 – 11 March 2022. The 19 technical areas represented included Legal instruments, Financing, IHR Coordination, Surveillance, Zoonotic diseases, Emergency health management, Health service provision, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Laboratory, Biosafety and Security, Food safety and Antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Others included Human resources, Linking public health and security authorities, Immunization, Risk communication, Points of Entry and border health, Chemical events, and Radiation events.
Sierra Leone is among the few countries in the world that conducts the IHR JEE Self-Assessment on an annual basis since 2018. This assessment is voluntary activity for countries to undertake and is conducted in addition to the mandatory IHR State Party Annual Reporting (SPAR Report). Sierra Leone conducted its 2021 SPAR assessment in December 2021 and was among the first three countries in the world to upload their report in the electronic SPAR website (https://extranet.who.int/e-spar).
In his opening statement of the plenary session of the workshop, the National One Health Coordinator, Joseph Bunting-Graden acknowledged the support of WHO and other partners in strengthening the health security in the country. He said that this support is mainly provided through annual capacity assessments, annual planning as well as implementation of priority activities in the 19 technical areas of NAPHS which cuts across various government entities such as Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment and Office of National Security among others.
“Besides the SPAR, countries are encouraged to conduct annual voluntary evaluations of progress made towards attainment of IHR health security objectives. Further to this, an annual operational plan should be developed to address the gaps identified across various sectors and to contribute to fulfilling the objectives set out in the country’s National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS)” said Bunting-Graden.
Speaking on behalf of the WHO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr Robert Musoke commended the effort of all partners and technical working groups members across various technical areas for their commitment in carrying out the JEE Scorecard self-assessment and developing the annual operational plan. Dr Musoke however acknowledged that even though some progress has been made in building health security capacity in Sierra Leone, there is still more work to be done to strengthen some technical areas that were lagging such as food safety, chemical events, and radiation events. He encouraged all technical area focal persons to take ownership and responsibility to ensure effective implementation of the proposed activities in 2022. Dr Musoke also stated that through the partnership with US-CDC, ICAP and WHO, there is now a web-based monitoring tool where the progress of implementation of the prioritized NAPHS activities can be tracked in real time.
In her opening remarks during the plenary session, the US CDC Country Director Dr Daphne Moffett also commended the country for the remarkable progress made so far in strengthening health security. She added that while most of the technical areas continue to improve, many areas do require interventions that we may find challenging but are achievable. She cited the ongoing training of advanced, intermediate, and frontline Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) course where Sierra Leone has now attained an appreciable benchmark on the number of trained field epidemiologists in the country.
All MDAs present and other partners such as US CDC, FAO, GIZ, AFENET, ICAP, Africa CDC, Metabiota and Breakthrough Action renewed their commitment to supporting the activities of the 2022 NAPHS annual operational plan.
Technical and financial support for the workshops was provided by WHO in collaboration with the US-CDC.
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