The International Organization for Migration signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone in April 2001 and has been operating in the country ever since. In the aftermath of the 10-year civil war, IOM Sierra Leone in close partnership with relevant line ministries has been engaged in programming centered on the reintegration of refugees, government capacity building, community stability and social cohesion, counter trafficking, diaspora engagement, reparations to war victims and livelihoods training activities.
Fast forward to October and November of 2014. The Ebola epidemic is in full swing with over 500 cases per week. IOM dispatched two assessment missions to Sierra Leone at the request of the Director General and made the decision to respond to its first Level 3 ‘health emergency’ with Ebola emergency response activities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
As of 20 June 2015, Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from the grip of an unprecedented Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak that has devastated the population and further weakened a fragile health services system through the unfortunate deaths of several prominent medical practitioners and depletion of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) resources and infrastructure at hospitals. Sierra Leone has recorded the highest rate of EVD transmission worldwide with over 12,706 confirmed EVD cases and 3,908 deaths as of 24 May 2015 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has had direct and indirect impacts on the capacity of the health care system in all three most affected countries, but significantly in Sierra Leone where health care workers infected with Ebola (304) and deaths (221) to 17 June reflects a significant loss of valued human resources and consequently an inability to provide basic and primary health care. The deaths of experienced health care workers and those who supported the health system administration, is a compounding deficit that takes a “generation of education, training, and experience” to replace. While the international community has responded to the EVD for containment and control, and in doing so has supported the provision of EVD specialty care, primary care services, public health expertise, the health system remains fragile.
From December 2014 when IOM assumed management of the National Ebola Training Academy from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense to late June 2015, IOM has rapidly scaled up its project activities in response to the epidemic. Consequently, staff presence on the ground has grown from 10 at the beginning of the IOM response to approximately 160 and growing as a result of expanded Health and Humanitarian Border Management operations at the time of writing. IOM Sierra Leone is headquartered in Freetown with 3 sub-offices in Lungi, Port Loko district, Kambia district and Bombali district.