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Following the recent discovery of the deadly Marburg Virus in the Country, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation under the 1 Health Platform, which consists of Environment Protection Agency, Office of National Security, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has concluded a 7 day District and Chiefdom stakeholders engagements in Koinadugu, Kono and Moyamba Districts last Wednesday.

The purpose of the meetings was to engage stakeholders at district and chiefdom level in KakoyaVillageWaraWaraBafodia inKoinadugu District, Koima Lei Chiefdom in Kono district and in KasawiFakunya Chiefdom in MoyambaDistricton the recent discovery of the deadly Marburg Virus.

Programme Manager, Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies, Mukeh K. Fahnbulleh, Who led the delegation admonished that they were engaging district and chiefdom stakeholders to not only inform them about the deadly Marburg Virus which was recently discovered in Cave Dwelling-Fruit Eating Bats in their districts and chiefdoms, but to also advise them to stay away from bats

Mr. Fahnbulleh further highlighted the health benefits of people to stay away from bats as they are the primary host of many viruses that can cause illness in humans. He further enlightened stakeholders of the efforts made by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through the One Health Platform and Government in general to ensure that the discovery becomes a reality and ensure timely communication of the virus to the public and the District and Chiefdom stakeholders.

While responding to questions as to what should be done with bats, Deputy Director at the Livestock and Veterinary Division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. AmaduTejanJalloh, noted that it is true people hunt bats in caves and use them as source of protein and other delicacies, thereby putting them, their communities and loved ones of not only Marburg Virus, but also other viral infections at risk. Dr. Jalloh further stated that although people use bats as source of protein and other delicacies, but however, advised stakeholders to avoid visiting caves where bat live and eating fruits that have been bitten/eaten by bats.

Senior Health Education Officer and Communication Lead at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies in the Ministry of Health of Health and Sanitation, Harold Thomas, while taking through stakeholders on the prime/take home messages on the Marburg Virus, advised stakeholders to avoid visiting caves or using them as shelters for cultural ceremonies, was all fruits and vegetables with pure water before cooking or eating, always cover food and water and their containers to make sure that bat spit, wet, and toilet cannot enter. Mr. Thomas also advised stakeholders against hunting of bats as there is the likelihood for people to contact the virus during the carrying, processing and cooking of bats, which would put the whole community at risk. 'One confirmed Laboratory Case of Marburg Warrants an Outbreak. Stressed Mr. Thomas

While educating stakeholders on the importance of bats to the environment, Communication Lead at the Environment Protection Agency, FatmataBakarrSesay, admonished those bats are active cross pollinators, thereby festering the environment and transporting seeds/grains to places where they may have extinct.

Mrs. Sesay added that bats also assist in pest control, as they feed on insects like mosquitos, thereby limiting the spread of malaria, adding that stakeholders should always live safely with bats and that they should not disturb them where they live, because if they are disturbed, they will get loos and come in numbers into the communities, which would put people and communities in risk of the Marburg Virus, which would lay the platform for human transmission.

Stakeholders from the district and chiefdom engagements thanked the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Partners for the early communication, as they are now aware that the Marburg Virus is in bats.

They also committed that they were going to support the ministry of Health and partners to spread the message and they were going to heed to all the positive messages they have heard from the team. They also recommended that the stakeholders engagements be held in other districts beside Koinadugu, Kono and Moyamba
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Publication:Expo Times (Freetown, Sierra Leone)
Date:Jan 18, 2019

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