By Ilyasa Baa
Sierra Leone yesterday 28th September, 2020, joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in observing World Rabies Day in the midst of unavailability of the rabies vaccines in most of the hospitals and health centres across the country.
With the unavailability and inaccessibility of the rabies vaccines, especially in remote areas within the country, according to Civil Society Organizations in the country, is an indication that that the country is far behind other countries in the sub region in terms of meeting the WHO goal of eradicating rabies by 2030.
Ferehmusu Tarawallie, in Kabala, informed this medium in tears that she lost her relative at the Kabala Government Hospital after he was bitten by a dog. She explained that when the incident happened, the victim was taken to a pharmacy for tetanus injection, adding that he was later admitted to the government hospital where he surprisingly passed away.
Our investigation indicated that people have to travel long distances, most times to the Medical Store, New England in Freetown, to acquire anti-rabies injections after dog bites.
According to Francis Erb, an ex-military officer disabled during the war, the situation is pathetic for a country with huge number of stray-dogs. He recounted his experience when he and his two boys were bitten by a dog. He said he rushed to the Waterloo Government Hospital for treatment, but no rabies vaccine was available, except when they travelled all the way to the Medical Store where he claimed to have paid Le50,000 for each injection. “It was a big burden on me as a disables,” he grumbled.
It was discovered that some of the guys at the Medical Store sneak out with the injection to treat people in their private places, which contradicts medical advice on the drugs, which should be kept under cool temperature, in order to preserve the drug.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has said they are putting in place a strategic plan to eliminate rabies in the country by 2030.
According to Dr. Abdul Kudus, a staff of the ministry, the fight against rabies needs a concerted effort by the public, the Local Councils, international and local partners, including the Njala University. He expressed that the situation will escalate if their strategic plan was not implemented.
In commemoration of World Rabies Day, the ministry conducted free vaccination for dogs as a way of preventing rabies in the country, where many lives have been lost due to unaffordable treatment for some families.
It could be recalled that, in the 80s and early 90s, the government used to conduct on-the-spot vaccination exercises in the communities.
A retired Medical Doctor opined that rabies causes one of the most horrible deaths, but can be controlled if dogs are vaccinated accordingly. He pointed out that people need to observe their dogs closely, noting that the virus is mainly on the saliva of the dog. He called on parents not to allow their children to play with dogs or allow them to lick an open part of the body, which, he said, can lead to rabies if the dog is infected.
World Rabies Day is an international awareness campaign coordinated by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, a non-profit organization with headquarters in the United States. It is celebrated annually to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in defeating this horrifying disease.
World Rabies Day also marks the anniversary of Louise Pasteur’s death, the French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.