‘Back village councils in Ebola fight’

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SDLP MP Mark Durkan says the Government should support local village development committees as well as the fragile health care system in Sierra Leone following the death of a 22-year-old woman from Ebola in the north of the country.

Mr Durkan made the call as officials from the West African republic confirmed the 22-year-old student had been in contact with at least 100 people prior to her death from the deadly virus in Tonkolili on January 12.

The young woman’s tragic death came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia and the cessation of all known chains of transmission in West Africa generally.

WHO did, however, warn of flare-ups of which this case the first.

Mr Durkan asked the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, if the Government would support village committees.

“Will the Secretary of State ensure that support for resilience will not just involve support for the infrastructure of a fragile healthcare system that clearly needs such support but support for village development committees in Sierra Leone?” he asked.

“They have proved themselves to be an effective and important network of mobilisation, and their capacity will be relevant to other challenges, including those diseases that lost priority during the Ebola crisis,” said the Foyle MP.

She replied: “The work that happened at community level proved pivotal in enabling us to tackle Ebola, both by steadily ensuring that victims of Ebola were buried safely and did not pass the virus on, and by improving surveillance. Surveillance is now a key plank of ensuring that no other case of Ebola romps away in the way it did when it took hold in 2014.”