Sierra Leone has completed public health risk profiling with aid of the Strategic Tool for Assessing Risk (STAR) and field testing of a new tool that will better position the country in terms of readiness to respond to the health consequences of disease outbreaks, as well as natural and man-made disasters.
WHO supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) in a five-day intensive workshop to identify, rank and prioritize health related hazards based on their likelihood, health consequences, the impact they pose to individuals and communities, vulnerability of those exposed and our inherent capacities to recover from them. The overall aim of the exercise was to enhance operational readiness to respond to various emergencies using the all hazard multi sectoral approach.
The last STAR assessment was done in 2016 in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak that greatly devasted the country. Since then, a lot has changed in terms of emerging or re-emerging health risks and hazards which were not imminent or considered in the last assessment.
The exercise attracted participants from government Ministries, Departments and Agencies including the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Office of National Security (ONS) as well other health development partners, including the US CDC, AFRICA CDC, GIZ, FCDO Breakthrough Action, among others in the human and animal health sectors.
In his opening remarks, the lead national facilitator and Operations Lead, Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergency, Mr Sahr Gbandeh, set out the general objective of the exercise: “to strengthen emergency preparedness and risk mitigation capacities in Sierra Leone through the review and development of a new STAR tool” he said.
The process received technical support from Warren Taylor from WHO HQ, Dr. Daniel Yota, Risk Preparedness and Management Officer for Country Health Preparedness and IHR at WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr. Allan Mpairwe, Risk and Preparedness Officer at the AFRO WHE Emergency Hub Nairobi along with the WHO Sierra Leone Country Office team.
Dr. Robert Musoke, Acting Health Security and Emergencies Cluster Coordinator at WHO Sierra Leone Country Office implored the participants to try their very best to get the prioritization of risks and hazards right, as this was the surest way to better prepare for potential events and emergencies in the foreseeable future.
“We must also be aware that continuous risk assessment is an integral part of the International Health Regulations/Joint External Evaluation (IHR/JEE) framework, and the unavailability of an up-to-date STAR actually affects the JEE scorecard” said Dr. Musoke.
As a follow up to the five-day exercise, a multi-hazard public health emergency preparedness plan will be revised and updated, with hazard specific contingency plans for risks categorized as high and very high.