Our Global Voices Posts

Keeping Kids Healthy in Sierra Leone

Posted on by Regan Rickert-Hartman and Tushar Singh

Even before the recent Ebola outbreak, the lack of quality healthcare was a major challenge in Sierra Leone, leading to the country suffering some of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. When a major outbreak strikes, overburdened health systems struggle to take care of other critical health issues, like making sure children are immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Sierra Leone suffers some of the world’s highest maternal and child mortality rates. 2,000 women per year die in childbirth and 1 in 8 children do not reach age 5, meaning there are 30,000 child deaths per year in a country of 7 million.

In Sierra Leone, less than 60% of children receive all recommended vaccines during their first year, and urban areas have even higher vaccine dropout rates. During the Ebola outbreak, we saw even these routine immunizations grind to a halt as the healthcare system was quickly overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading virus.

Immunizations are key to preventing the spread of infectious diseases like measles, which is why it is so important to have strong data and trained public health workers to launch vaccination campaigns. With the right information, public health workers can spring into action to prevent diseases from taking hold. This is why we are focusing on improving surveillance systems and training the public health workforce in Sierra Leone.

When Ebola struck in 2014, Sierra Leone lacked an effective infectious disease reporting system and enough trained epidemiologists – or disease detectives – to stop the outbreak, which then turned into an epidemic that claimed thousands of lives.

The situation in the country has since changed. Sierra Leone now has 58 disease detectives trained through the Frontline Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) with an additional 23 disease detectives currently undergoing training. Trainees and graduates have already investigated more than 50 outbreaks. Sierra Leone also has an Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system. The IDSR system monitors for more than 45 diseases, conditions, and public health threats. A single case of an epidemic-prone disease, such as viral hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, or cholera, is now reported within 24 hours by local and district public health facilities to the national office of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) so they can take quick action.

More than 2.8 million children in Sierra Leone were vaccinated against measles during campaigns in 2016.
More than 2.8 million children in Sierra Leone were vaccinated against measles during campaigns in 2016.

The IDSR system can detect outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that impact children, such as measles. In 2016, the IDSR system helped increase the reporting of measles cases, which prompted the launch of nationwide measles vaccination campaigns. We are proud to say that, thanks to this campaign, more than 2.8 million kids were vaccinated against measles in Sierra Leone.

An added benefit to stronger data is that we realized that some cases that were being reported as measles were actually rubella. Rubella is very dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies. With this new information pregnant mothers diagnosed with rubella can be monitored and we can advocate to our partners for additional vaccine campaigns targeting rubella.

Because fast and accurate information can help us get ahead of disease, CDC has been providing technical help to improve data quality, including rolling out the electronic IDSR (eIDSR) platform across Sierra Leone. These electronic systems can capture data on any device, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Most systems also have the capability to be used off-line, which is especially helpful in rural areas with poor internet connectivity. In a sign of the progress made since the Ebola outbreak, all districts are now electronically reporting their IDSR data to the national level.

Data tells us what is needed and where so that we can take quick and effective action. As Sierra Leone is demonstrating, it can help inform strategies to protect children and the communities they live in. Having better data – and people who are trained to use that data effectively – can stop outbreaks in their tracks, before they have a chance to become epidemics.

Posted on by Regan Rickert-Hartman and Tushar Singh1 Comment

Rotary and CDC – Partners in Polio and Beyond

Partnerships play an integral role in CDC’s international work. Eradication and elimination initiatives for vaccine-preventable diseases serve as examples underlining the importance of public-private partnerships. Global polio eradication has been and remains a top priority for CDC. It would be only the second time in history that a human disease has been eradicated, and partners Read More >

Posted on by W. William Schluter, MD, MSPH, Director, Global Immunization DivisionTags , , , ,

Media Dialogues: Cultivating a Conducive Tobacco-Control Environment In Cameroon

The author, Caleb Ayong

As the communications officer for the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control (C3T), I know the importance of educating journalists and guiding them to use factually accurate information from trustworthy sources. If this does not happen, they could obtain distorted information and pass it on to the public. C3T has held media dialogues with journalists for a couple of years now. Because of the opportunities these events present to build the capacity of the media to report accurately on tobacco control, we have organized three media dialogues in 2017, with more scheduled in several regions of the country in the months ahead.  Read More >

Posted on by CALEB I. AYONG, Communications Officer, Cameroonian Coalition to Counter Tobacco (C3T)Tags , , ,

Transforming Hypertension Treatment in Barbados

A blood pressure screening in Barbados.

While being a physician is certainly important to me, first and foremost I consider myself a native of Barbados. The people of Barbados are unique, but they share a commonality with citizens of many other countries: they struggle with a high burden of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and other risk factors for Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Kenneth Connell, the Preclinical Deputy Dean and a Faculty Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of the West Indies, Medical Sciences Cave Hill Campus in Barbados

Strengthening Immunization in Challenging Settings

Training cold chain mentees in solar direct drive fridges installation

Providing routine immunization services is a global public health priority to protect families and children from vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles, and cholera. In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, the need is enormous. Without vaccination, children and their communities may be vulnerable to preventable but deadly and disabling diseases. From 2008 to 2012, Read More >

Posted on by CDC’s Global Immunization Division in collaboration with in-country partnersTags ,

Vaccines Work: Leaving No Child Behind – How Pediatricians Can Contribute to Global Vaccine Coverage

NEPAS 2017

In Nepal, pediatricians meet with a caregiver and frontline vaccinators to learn how pediatricians can more effectively advocate for vaccine access.   Today, more children are saved by vaccines than ever before, but over 19 million children are still missing out on these critical life-saving vaccines each year across the world (WHO, 2017). To put Read More >

Posted on by Guest blogger: Louis Z. Cooper, MD, FAAP, Past President, American Academy of Pediatrics2 CommentsTags , , ,

The Road Ahead to Malaria Eradication

World Malaria Day arrives today with a theme that is equal parts ambition and aspiration—“End Malaria for Good.” It’s catchy and encapsulates a universal goal. It also compels us to take unflinching stock to understand where we are in the fight against this beguiling foe. And more importantly, what needs to change to end a Read More >

Posted on by Patrick Kachur, Chief, Malaria Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, CDCTags , , , ,

Looking Back With Pride….Looking Ahead With Confidence

A historical overview on eliminating Meningitis in Africa In the 1990’s epidemics of meningitis sweeping across the vast span of the African continent known as the “meningitis belt” were claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and there was not much the global public health community was able to do. We all knew that a vaccine Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Nancy Messonnier (CAPT, USPHS) Director for the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory DiseasesTags , , ,

Closer than Ever

Some of the world’s most accomplished disease experts—including several of my colleagues in CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria (DPDM)—are gathering in Geneva this week at the NTD Summit 2017. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic, bacterial, and viral diseases that cause illness and disability in more than 1.5 billion people Read More >

Posted on by CAPT Stephanie Bialek, Chief, Parasitic Diseases, Division of Parasitic Disease and MalariaTags , , , , , ,

Preventing Local Outbreaks from Becoming Global Pandemics: FETP Enhances Capabilities to Track Diseases and Stop Them at the Source


Christine Kihembo, FETP graduate from Uganda led a study in her country on Podoconiosis, a neglected tropical diseases that affects about 4 million people around the world. Above, the typical asymmetrical lymphedema (lower limb swelling) seen in podoconiosis. The skin on the affected limbs is thickened with warty and mossy nodules and toes are disfigured. Read More >

Posted on by David Sugerman, MD, MPH, FACEPTags ,