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Concept: Districts of Sierra Leone

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Kambia District is located in northwestern Sierra Leone along the international border with Guinea. The district is dominated by forest and swamp habitat and has a population of approximately 270,000 persons (approximately 5% of the nation’s population) who live in rural villages and predominantly subsist on farming and trading. During 2014-2015, the remoteness of the area, a highly porous border with Guinea, and strong traditional beliefs about health care and sickness led to unique challenges in controlling the Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) outbreak within the district.

Concepts: Sierra Leone, Temne people, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Port Loko District, Districts of Sierra Leone, Bombali District, Kambia District, Susu people

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During December 2014-February 2015, an Ebola outbreak in a village in Kono district, Sierra Leone, began following unsafe funeral practices after the death of a person later confirmed to be infected with Ebola virus. In response, disease surveillance officers and community health workers, in collaboration with local leadership and international partners, conducted 1 day of active surveillance and health education for all households in the village followed by ongoing outreach. This study investigated the impact of these interventions on the outbreak.

Concepts: Ebola, Sierra Leone, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, Kono District, Samuel Sam-Sumana, Kono people, Johnny Paul Koroma

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This paper discusses the establishment of a clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine candidate in Kambia District, Northern Sierra Leone during the epidemic, and analyses the role of social science research in ensuring that lessons from the socio-political context, the recent experience of the Ebola outbreak, and learning from previous clinical trials were incorporated in the development of community engagement strategies. The paper aims to provide a case study of an integrated social science and communications system in the start-up phase of the clinical trial.

Concepts: Sierra Leone, Temne people, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Port Loko District, Districts of Sierra Leone, Bombali District, Kambia District, Susu people

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During the 2014-16 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the Magburaka Ebola Management Centre (EMC) operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone, identified that available district maps lacked up-to-date village information to facilitate timely implementation of EVD control strategies. In January 2015, we undertook a survey in chiefdoms within the MSF EMC catchment area to collect mapping and village data. We explore the feasibility and cost to mobilise a local community for this survey, describe validation against existing mapping sources and use of the data to prioritise areas for interventions, and lessons learned.

Concepts: Sierra Leone, Temne people, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Tonkolili District, Foday Sankoh, Districts of Sierra Leone, Reston, Virginia, Magburaka

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Studies have shown that people suffering from food insecurity are at higher risk for infectious and noncommunicable diseases and have poorer health outcomes. No study, however, has examined the association between food insecurity and outcomes related to Ebola virus disease (EVD). We conducted a cross-sectional study in two Ebola-affected communities in Kono district, Sierra Leone, from November 2015 to September 2016. We enrolled persons who were determined to have been exposed to Ebola virus. We assessed the association of food insecurity, using an adapted version of the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale, a nine-item scale well validated across Africa, with having been diagnosed with EVD and having died of EVD, using logistic regression models with cluster-adjusted standard errors. We interviewed 326 persons who were exposed to Ebola virus; 61 (19%) were diagnosed with EVD and 45/61 (74%) died. We found high levels (87%) of food insecurity, but there was no association between food insecurity and having been diagnosed with EVD. Among EVD cases, those who were food insecure had 18.3 times the adjusted odds of death than those who were food secure (P= 0.03). This is the first study to demonstrate a potential relationship between food insecurity and having died of EVD, although larger prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Concepts: Food security, Sierra Leone, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, Kono District, Samuel Sam-Sumana, Kono people, Johnny Paul Koroma

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In Bo district, rural Sierra Leone, we assessed the burden of the 2014 Ebola outbreak on under-five consultations at a primary health center and the quality of care for under-15 children at a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) referral hospital.

Concepts: Sierra Leone, Freetown, Districts of Sierra Leone, Mende people, Bo, Sierra Leone, Southern Province, Sierra Leone, Bonthe District, Bo District

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In 2010, at the same time as the national roll out of the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI), which removed user fees for facility based health care, trained community health volunteers (CHVs) were deployed to provide integrated community case management of diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia to children under 5 years of age (U5) in Kambia and Pujehun districts, Sierra Leone. After 2 years of implementation and in the context of FHCI, CHV utilization rate was 14.0 %. In this study, we examine the factors associated with this level of CHV utilization. A cross-sectional household-cluster survey of 1590 caregivers of 2279 children U5 was conducted in 2012; with CHV utilization assessed using a multiple logistic regression model. Focus groups and in-depth interviews were also conducted to understand communities' experiences with CHVs. Children with diarrhea (OR = 3.17, 95 % CI: 1.17-8.60), from female-headed households (OR = 4.55, 95 % CI: 1.88-11.00), and whose caregivers reported poor quality of care as a barrier to facility care-seeking (OR = 8.53, 95 % CI: 3.13-23.16) were more likely to receive treatment from a CHV. Despite low utilization, caregivers were highly familiar and appreciative of CHVs, but were concerned about the lack of financial remuneration for CHVs. CHVs remained an important source of care for children from female-headed households and whose caregivers reported poor quality of care at health facilities. CHVs are an important strategy for certain populations even when facility utilization is high or when facility services are compromised, as has happened with the recent Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.

Concepts: Health care, Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Sierra Leone, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, Southern Province, Sierra Leone, Kambia District

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BACKGROUND Sierra Leone has emerged from civil war but remains in the lowest tier of the human development index. While significant health reforms, such as the removal of user fees, aim to increase access to services, little is known about how families navigate a plural health system in seeking health care for sick children. This research aims to build on recent care-seeking literature that emphasizes a shift from static supply-and-demand paradigms towards more nuanced understandings, which account for the role of household agency and social support in navigating a landscape of options. METHODS A rapid ethnographic assessment was conducted in villages near and far from facilities across four districts: Kambia, Kailahun, Pujehun and Tonkolili. In total, 36 focus group discussions and 64 in-depth interviews were completed in 12 villages. Structured observation in each village detailed sources of health care. RESULTS When a child becomes sick, households work within their geographic, social and financial context to seek care from sources including home treatment, herbalists, religious healers, drug peddlers and facility-based providers. Pathways vary, but respondents living closer to facilities emphasized facility care compared with those living further away, who take multi-pronged approaches. Beyond factors linked to the location and type of healthcare provision, social networks and collaboration within and across families determine how best to care for a sick child and can contribute to (or hinder) the mobilization of resources necessary to access care. Husbands play a particularly critical role in mobilizing funds and facilitating transport to facilities. CONCLUSION Caregivers in Sierra Leone have endured in the absence of adequate health care for decades: their resourcefulness in devising multiple strategies for care must be recognized and integrated into the service delivery reforms that are making health care increasingly available.

Concepts: Health care, Health economics, Medicine, Healthcare, Focus group, Sociology, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone