With the World Health Organization (WHO) alarming that the death toll in West Africa as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease, could rise to over 20,000 before the disease is contained, the National Ebola Response Taskforce here has put in vogue a robust strategy that will help in fighting the virus effectively.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, the National Coordinator of the Taskforce, James Dorbor Jallah said, to ensure that all of the various groups in the fight against the Ebola scourge work in an coordinated fashion in fighting the various, a national Ebola fight strategy has been evolved.
The structure of the strategy, Jallah said, places the Taskforce at the head with three key parts below. The three parts are health, security and outreach. The National Response Coordinator (NRC) headed by Jallah will primarily be responsible for coordinating all of the work and functions of the three components of the strategy.
Under the health component, the Ministry of Health (MOH), which is the epicenter, will supervise all teams delivering health related services. This will essentially include the collection of sick and dead bodies caused by the contraction of the EVD. The cremation and the burial of the dead as well as the formulation of a distribution plan of the medications, protective gears and related material use in the Ebola fight.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and the Ministry of Information will head the outreach segment of the strategy. In this realm, the MIA will help in the collection of the dead Ebola bodies as well as help in the tracking of contacts made with the dead body caused by the EVD.
Moreover, the two ministries will liaise and work with other local and international groups in outreach activities relative to the fight against the Ebola malady. The security arm of the strategy will be headed by the Ministry of National Defense (MOD). All security apparatuses lined up in the fight against the deadly scourged will work in sync with the MOD, Jallah divulged.
The youthful and energetic NRC head said putting this structure in place was key to the successful operation of the National Ebola Taskforce.
The strategy he said was intended to avoid any form of confusion and duplication and overlapping of functions. He further that, the strategy will be very instrumental in tracking all of the interventions and work that international partners are making in this battle
The strategy, Jallah asserted, has inherent in it a framework for a chain of communication amongst all members of the Taskforce and the various ancillary groups that are working in various sphere in trying to contain the virus. The NRC will coordinate the works of the various structures inbuilt in the strategy which has become a roadmap in the fight of the EVD.
All strategy employed by the taskforce will be replicated in the counties where there are cases of Ebola Virus, Jallah said. He however informed the Daily Observer that, at the moment, Ebola bodies in the counties are been buried and not cremated.
By the current strategy, each county has a burial team, treatment centers, and contact tracing teams working along with the health team and the Taskforce across the country.
Health Facilities Overwhelmed
Addressing concerns that the Taskforce was responding to calls for the removal of dead bodies and the conveyance of the sick to treatment centers in slow manner, Jallah agreed that the complains were genuine but attributed it to the limitation on the communication chain and logistics.
To improve on the situation, Jallah explained that, the number of bed normally available at treatment centers in previous Ebola outbreak instances have been 40. But the available treatment centers have been overwhelmed thus prompting the increment of the beds to 180 at some centers. At ELWA withholding Center alone, there are plans to increase the number of bed to 300 to accommodate more cases.
The rate at which people are contracting the virus has caused the Taskforce to embark on a fast track approach to developed additional treatment facilities at the Island Hospital, the Unity Conference Center, Omega Navigations Station and the JFK Medical Center.
Experts from the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that the outbreak of EVD spread in Liberia is unprecedented and sometimes terming it deceptive. These two institutions have years of experience but observed that the level of the EVD in Liberia must be dealt with strategically.
Part of the reasons adduced for the initial slow response, according to Jallah, was that the rate at which cremation was ongoing could not allow for the accommodation of more dead bodies owing to the limited space at the India Consul General Crematorium which is currently being used to dispose of the dead.
He narrated that there is a mismatched of the rate of Ebola dead to the space at the crematorium thus affecting the body collection.
He indicated that there is no withholding space at the crematorium thus prompting vehicles conveying dead bodies to park and wait with the corpses on board until the crematorium is decongested. After the vehicles are offloaded before they are sent back in the field to collect more dead bodies. But this sad development will soon be a thing of the past with the Japanese government provision of incinerators.
Incinerators to Help in Cremation
Because of the increase in the number of people succumbing to the virus and the attendant disposal constraints, Jallah divulged that the Japanese government has made an overture to donate five mobile incinerators to help in cremating the dead.
Jallah said, two of the incinerators will be deployed in Montserrado County owing to the death rate in the county, while the rest will be deployed across the country.
Liberians disposal of the dead has always been by burying and not by cremation. The only crematorium here is not spacious enough to dispose off large number of dead at the rate that the current incident is inducing.
To assuage the problems picking up patients and fast track the collection and disposal of Ebola bodies, Jallah said, the Call Center established in the GSA yard, will be used to route all calls for both Ebola bodies and patients.
There are about 130 staffs at the Call Center working on a 24 hours three shifts schedule to receive and forward calls either for collection of patients or Ebola Bodies. With 35 staff on a shift, the Call Centers helps immensely in collecting patients and disposing off of the dead bodies.
Currently, the center is averaging around 2,000 daily. Plans are underway to have Ebola call centers in each county.