Towards a Strategic Urban Plan for Makeni City

Visitors from San Pablo University Spain with UNIMAK Staff

Our Correspondent Emmanuel A.B. Turay writes:

A team of twenty from the San Pablo University (CEU) Madrid, Spain lead by Luis Perea including six lecturers/professors and fourteen students have arrived in Makeni city at the weekend to continue the strategic planning process for the city of Makeni.

In collaboration with UNIMAK and Makeni City Council, the San Pablo University visiting team are in Makeni to create a solid framework to formalise a planning strategy for the city of Makeni. During their last visit to Makeni in 2013 before the Ebola outbreak CEU identified key areas within the municipality and its immediate environs for proper planning as well as operational references in land use and planning in Makeni taking into consideration some of the previous steps taken during the early planning stage.

The delegation from Spain paid an official visit to the Mayor of Makeni City, Her Worship Sunkarie Kamara at her parlour at city council where she reiterated the need for proper planning of the city noting that the city is facing several challenges as a result of the growth and population. This the Mayor lamented has posed several threats to the environment including poor drainage systems, access roads, population’s dependence on fuel wood for energy, etc. some of which has resulted to the present climatic condition they are presently experiencing.

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The delegation from Spain with the Mayor of Makeni City, Her Worship Sunkarie Kamara

The Mayor welcomed the team from San Pablo to the city of Makeni and pledged council’s cooperation and support to the strategic urban planning process of the municipality which, based on the just concluded housing and population census, is expected to cover a seven kilometre radius. “We are looking forward to having a sustainable urban plan with your expertise and support”, she said.

The technical team from Spain had a day session with various stakeholders concerned with the sustainable planning process of the city including, Housing and country planning, regional surveyor, SLRA, Ministry of Works, Local government and the Provincial Secretary’s office. Part of their engagement was to identify the planning area, check and analyse documents provided by San Pablo University and to evaluate proposals and other territorial models received by CEU University. The Spanish team is expected to hold two more consultative meetings with various stakeholders engaged in the planning process.

Minister of Health opens new UNIMAK Laboratory

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Laboratory staff at work

The lab at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) – a collaboration with the University of Cambridge supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust – was officially opened on Friday 22 January by Sierra Leonean Health Minister Dr Abu Bakarr Fofanah.

The new facility will provide Sierra Leone with a greater ability to identify emerging infectious diseases in the earliest stages, increasing the country’s resilience to future epidemics. It is also expected to become a centre of excellence for research and teaching in the country, which has suffered more than 14,000 cases of the disease since the outbreak began.

The laboratory evolved from a temporary facility at the Mateneh Ebola Treatment Centre, set up in April 2015 by Professor Ian Goodfellow, a UK-based virologist who decided to apply his skills as an infectious disease researcher to the global response effort at the height of the Ebola outbreak.

With just a single Thermo Fisher Scientific Ion PGM sequencing machine, selected for its ability to function in a harsh environment of high temperatures, humidity and dust, the lab quickly began processing samples collected over the course of the epidemic to provide information about the evolution of the virus in real time. To date it has processed more than 1,200 clinical samples (including blood, semen and breastmilk), generating almost 600 full length Ebola virus genomes – the largest single dataset from any laboratory.

Bishop Natale Paganelli, Chancellor of UNIMAK at the Opening

Bishop Natale Paganelli, Chancellor of UNIMAK, at the Opening

Now relocated to its permanent home in the university, with support from the UK Department for International Development, the UNIMAK Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory will provide a world-class environment for the training of local scientists and will bolster the in-country capacity for ongoing disease surveillance.

In addition to Ebola, researchers will study other infectious diseases such as leptospirosis and Lassa Fever, as very little is known currently about these infections in the local population. The information they obtain will be made available to the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and local healthcare providers so that it may be used to devise better diagnostic and treatment strategies.

Professor Ian Goodfellow (on right) and colleagues

Professor Ian Goodfellow (on right) and colleagues

Prof Goodfellow, from the University of Cambridge, said: “We initially set up our makeshift laboratory to provide temporary support during the emergency response to the Ebola epidemic. However, it soon became clear that there was a need to establish a more permanent facility within Sierra Leone to maintain these capabilities for the future.

“What started as little more than a sequencing machine in a tent has since blossomed into a fully functioning laboratory, where a new generation of scientists will train in the latest genome sequencing techniques to allow them to study infectious diseases in the local community.”

Professor Father Joe Turay, Vice Chancellor of the University of Makeni (UNIMAK), said: “As a university this laboratory will be part of our contribution to building a resilient health system in the country. Our partnership with Cambridge, along with other foundations and institutions, is about supporting UNIMAK in providing the training, research and community services that will strengthen our health infrastructure for post Ebola recovery in Sierra Leone.”

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “The recently confirmed case of Ebola in Sierra Leone serves as poignant reminder of the need to remain vigilant, and the new facilities in Makeni are already playing an important role in this.

“Beyond Ebola, it’s critical that research capabilities are strengthened and maintained in the long-term to build a better picture of health and disease in the local population. Not only will this help to improve the way infections are diagnosed and treated, it will also increase the region’s ability to identify and respond quickly to new epidemic threats as they emerge.”

UNIMAK publishes new Mental Health Paper by Director of Mental Health

In a new study paper “Mental Health in Sierra Leone: Beliefs, Myths and Truth”, Dr Rebecca Esliker, UNIMAK‘s Director of Mental Health programmes concludes:

” … the issue of mental health in Sierra Leone has become a priority area due to the decline in mental health in the country contributing to high mortality rate and slow economic recovery and development…
… improved mental health policies must be embedded in Sierra Leone’s national strategy in an aim to promote accessible professional mental health treatment and services to the public.”

Follow this link to read the full paper …

UNIMAK’s Public Health Students Enjoy Cambridge Professor’s Lectures

Public HealthProfessor Ian Goodfellow from the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge, UK, was in Makeni this week for the opening of UNIMAK‘s new Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory. While at the University, he made time to lecture students on the Public Health course, who really appreciated this great opportunity. Professor Goodfellow tweeted: “Final lecture today with @Unimak_SL Public Heath students- I wish my students at home were always this enthusiastic”.