Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea’s national Ebola response coordinator, opened the meeting, asserting collective progress in meeting Phase 3 response goals: “We have enhanced our systems, are detecting and stopping small outbreaks of Ebola, identifying weak links and working together to minimize and manage risks of Ebola,” he said. “We are currently at zero cases, but we hope to be at zero risk.”
At the Conakry meeting, representatives of the three countries and partners provided detailed assessments of advancements, challenges and resource needs in these areas, as well as efforts to adapt and integrate Ebola-focused programs into broader national strategies to address other diseases and health emergencies.
“These recent events show us what these countries are capable of when there is strong government leadership, experienced responders, ongoing support from partners and regional coordination,” said Peter Graaff, director of WHO’s Ebola response, noting that Guinea deployed a ring vaccination team to Sierra Leone to vaccinate contacts while both Liberia and Sierra Leone dispatched veteran epidemiologists to each other’s country to support case investigations and testing –“drawing on the region’s expertise to curb the potential spread of Ebola to affected communities.” All three countries pointed to community engagement and surveillance as one of the biggest gaps and challenges.
Concerns about human resources and long-term funding streams were repeatedly raised–to maintain lab capacity, to establish and train rapid response teams and Infectious Diseases Surveillance and Response systems and to ensure Ebola survivors have access to specialized services for health complications like eye and neurology care, as well as semen and breast milk testing programs.
Participants stressed the need to track unregistered survivors and monitor the health of all survivors, to ensure they have proper clinical care, mental health services and other counseling, as well as to garner their assistance in understanding short and long-term health implications of Ebola. The overarching goals of Phase 3 are to interrupt all remaining chains of transmission and to identify, manage and respond to the consequences of residual Ebola risks.