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Sierra Leone Launches Multi-sectoral Anemia Working Group

Sierra Leone Launches Multi-sectoral Anemia Working Group

The inaugural meeting of Sierra Leone’s national anemia working group (NAWG) on February 4, 2016 included government representatives, local and international NGOs, UN partners, and donor staff. This multi-sectoral platform will identify, prioritize, and integrate anemia interventions into national policy and programs. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) and Helen Keller International (HKI), SPRING’s local representative, organized the event.

Ms. Aminata Shamit Koroma, National Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Technical Focal Point and Director, Food and Nutrition, MoHS, and Dr. Mohamed Foh, National Coordinator, SUN Secretariat, co-chaired the meeting. Ms. Koroma emphasized that reducing Sierra Leone’s high prevalence of anemia will require a multi-sectoral effort. She reviewed the NAWG’s draft terms of reference and at the meeting’s conclusion and asked organizations to sign on as members.

Dr. Sorrel Namaste (SPRING) gave a presentation titled "Integrated Anemia Prevention and Control" (PDF, 2.23 MB) and reflected on the Sierra Leone context, where 76% of children and 70% of pregnant women are anemic, but iron deficiency anemia is low. She proposed that malaria and other infections are likely major contributors and that genetics might be a factor in anemia in Sierra Leone. Dr. Samuel Juana Smith, Program Manager of the National Malaria Control Program, MoHS, gave an update on malaria reduction efforts through both facility and community health worker platforms. A key strategy he noted is that all suspected cases should have a confirmatory diagnosis and noted that over 6500 health workers have been trained in rapid diagnostic testing.

Dr. Mary Hodges (HKI) led a discussion of priority approaches, especially WASH and other efforts to reduce infections. The group may also consider food-based interventions, supplementation including with vitamin A at 6-month contact points, and information to fathers and to mother support groups. The group plans to meet on a regular basis and host stakeholder meetings yearly for a deep dive on key topics.

Photo: National Anemia Working Group Secretariat visits the Sickle Cell Anemia Association