In partnership with the Government, WHO is working to build a stronger health system and a healthier future for the people of Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is an intergovernmental specialized agency within the United Nations system, responsible for leadership, direction and norms relating to public health. Through the Organization, 194 member countries come together with the ultimate goal of improving the health of people all around the world.
The Ninth World Health Assembly admitted Sierra Leone as an Associate Member of WHO at the Fourth Plenary Meeting on 9 May 1956. Sierra Leone became an official member of WHO at its Independence on 27 April 1961 and is a Member State of the WHO African Region.
What we do
With the end of the major Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone on the 7th November 2015, the country has transitioned its priorities from 'Ebola to Health' in line with the country’s two-year Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015-17). In the health sector, WHO supported the Government in three priority areas: i) saving the lives of women and children; ii) achieving a ‘resilient zero’: preventing and responding to outbreaks, and iii) ensuring continuous care for survivors of Ebola Virus Disease.
In line with the priorities set out by the Government of Sierra Leone, WHO’s strategic direction from 2017 – 2021 focuses on the following four goals:
1. Improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health;
The Government of Sierra Leone has committed to accelerating reductions in maternal and childhood mortality. Achieving this requires cross-cutting actions with a particular emphasis on improving the quality and availability of essential health services. This will require health facility improvements and trainings of key personnel, increased availability of lifesaving medicines and supplies, functioning referral systems and emergency care, and improvements in nutrition and vaccinations. WHO is providing strategic support and guidance in all of these areas towards saving the lives of women and children in Sierra Leone.
2. Strengthening capacities in public health security and emergencies;
The President’s Recovery Priorities include a national commitment to achieve a ‘resilient zero’ in terms of addressing risks from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and preventing epidemics. To this end, the Ministry together with WHO and partners has been working to enhance capacity at all levels of the health system to identify, prevent and respond to health security hazards and emergencies, especially outbreaks of infectious diseases. Areas of focus include the revitalisation of disease surveillance and reporting systems; the formation of rapid outbreak investigation and response teams; capacity building in regional and district laboratories, and a substantive infection prevention and control programme within health facilities to protect healthcare workers and patients from infectious diseases.
3. Reducing morbidity and mortality from major communicable and noncommunicable diseases;
Sierra Leone has a severe communicable disease burden, and a rising incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Malaria remains one of the most serious public health issues with high morbidity and mortality, while Sierra Leone is among the 30 countries in the world with the highest burden of tuberculosis. Meanwhile, the probability of death from any of the four main NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease) stands at close to 30 percent for people between the ages of 30 and 70 years. WHO is therefore supporting efforts to improve prevention, diagnosis, information and management of various communicable and NCDs from malaria to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, cancers, diabetes and mental health disorders.
4. Strengthening the health system.
A strong and well-functioning health system rests on a number of building blocks including: trained and motivated health workers; well-maintained infrastructure and information systems, and a reliable supply of medicines and technologies, all backed by effective financing, plans and policies. Towards these goals, WHO supports activities focused on strategy and policy development, improving financial and operational management, developing a new and improved health information system, and effective planning to help meet the country’s short, medium and longer term health workforce needs.
Who we are and where we work
The structure and size of the WHO Sierra Leone Country Office has undergone significant change over the past two years. Prior to the Ebola outbreak WHO Sierra Leone consisted of around 40 staff situated in the Country Office in Freetown with no WHO presence in any of the 14 districts. Over the second half of 2014 and through 2015 the size of the office increased significantly, to a peak of around 280 staff based across the 14 districts of Sierra Leone. This substantial increase was in response to the needs of the Ebola outbreak, with activities heavily focussed on the identification and management of Ebola cases and contacts.
In line with the end of the major outbreak, activities have now resumed towards supporting other health priorities as outlined above, with a reduced staff presence. At the end of 2016, there were 206 staff in Sierra Leone, with 93 in Freetown and 113 in the districts. WHO will maintain a presence in all 14 districts in 2017 albeit with less staff, embedded in the DHMTs. The focus in the districts is now on district management strengthening, primary health care and epidemiology.
Within this broad staffing structure are three technical clusters that drive the work of the organisation from the country office. These are:
- Health Systems Strengthening,
- Health Security and Emergencies, and
- Basic Package of Essential Health Services.
Within each of these clusters sits a number of sub teams, the focus of which can be seen in the organogram below. Our operations team, consisting of HR, Budget & Finance, ICT, and Procurement are essential to facilitate the work of the technical clusters as well as the logistics and management teams.