Ministry of Health Adapts WHO Disease Outbreak Communication Handbook

MoHS officials at the opening of the review meeting MoHS officials at the opening of the review meeting

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) has started adaptation of the generic WHO Disease Outbreak Communication Training Handbook to strengthen outbreak communication in the country. The process com-menced with review of the document to decide on the changes that need to be introduced to customize it to the Sierra Leonean context. The purpose of the handbook is to guide users to design and carry out communication and social mobilisation activities to create awareness, promote behaviour change to prevent and control disease outbreaks.

The handbook comprehensively addresses strategies and methods required for effective outbreak communication. The main target audiences are pro-gramme officers and field staff that work on outbreak disease communica-tion and social mobilisation activities at national and community levels. Other target audiences include environmental health officers, district supervisors, policy makers and partners.

The Health Education Division of the MoHS facilitated the adaptation process. Participants include officials of the Directorate of Disease Prevention and Control of the MOHS, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, NGOs, the civil society and sector partners including WHO and UNICEF. WHO provided technical and financial support for the adaptation process. Adaption of the Handbook was necessitated by the current cholera outbreak in the country.

Adaptation of the handbook is expected to lead to the provi-sion of timely information to targeted groups, create supportive communication environment for collective action to prevent and control any outbreak. Upon validation the handbook will be used to train front line health work-ers to respond to outbreaks that may occur in their communities.