The World Health Organization has handed over a consignment of various laboratory commodities for COVID-19 as well as routine laboratory testing worth over $600,000 to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

The donation is part of the Organization’s continued assistance to Sierra Leone to scale-up COVID-19 testing and confirmation of cases in communities and public health facilities at national and sub-national levels; heightened surveillance for Ebola; and, to ensure availability of critical laboratory testing services for appropriate patient management.

The consignment included specimen collection kits, antigen rapid diagnostic kits and PCR test kits that screen for variants of concern for COVID-19, donated by WHO. The consignment also included kits, waste management supplies for Ebola virus disease specimens, procured with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The donation also included an assortment of laboratory supplies to support routine laboratory testing and blood donation services, as part of efforts to improve availability of these critical services, procured with funding from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).

Receiving the commodities, the Minister of Health Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby commended WHO for the continued support in the provision of technical as well as logistical assistance to the COVID-19 response and other public health interventions in Sierra Leone.

With this donation, the country is now able to scale up testing for COVID-19 at 20 high-burden health facilities using the kits to concurrently test and screen for some variants of concern for COVID-19 like Delta, Omicron and, ensure health-worker, public and environmental safety as the country continues to heightened surveillance for Ebola. Additionally, the country is able to continue and to decentralize provision of critical routine and clinical testing services as part of efforts to improve access to quality services.

“Continuous intensified and uninterrupted laboratory testing is a fundamental component of a functional disease surveillance system. Hence, for the health authorities to plan and effectively implement COVID-19 response interventions, we have made the donations to boost testing that would help reveal the trend of the pandemic and the burden of transmission so that the right actions and interventions can be taken”, says Dr Steven V. Shongwe, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.

World Health Organization continues to support public health authorities in Sierra Leone to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as continue routine disease surveillance and provision of critical laboratory testing services. The Organization continues to provide strategic coordination of partners, mobilization of needed resources, and provision of technical expertise including critical trainings, logistics and supplies and demand creation for the utilization of services through the financial support of its donors and partners.

The first confirmed case of COVID -19 was reported in Sierra Leone in March 2020. Since then, cumulative 6,358 persons have tested positive for the disease in the country, with 121 deaths directly ascribed to COVID-19. Over the past days, the number of reported cases have increased, putting experts on the alert for a possible fourth wave especially during the festive seasons.

“COVID-19 like any other public health emergency hinders to development. Already, huge resources have been invested by the government and partners over the past two years to keep the public safe, it is time to emphasize the urgent need for everyone to play their best possible roles to protect themselves, their families and their communities by ensuring that they get vaccinated and adhere to other public health measures”, says Dr Shongwe. “Get vaccinated! Get vaccinated! Get vaccinated”!