COVID-19 Vis-à-Vis Sierra Leone’s Open Data, SDG3

Institute Creates Special app to Self-Test for Coronavirus

By Theresa Vamboi

Sierra Leone is among West African countries with low number of cases of COVID-19 that has been spreading across the globe like a wildfire. Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, the country has activated the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) established during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that claimed over 4,000 lives. Almost 100 percent of Ebola deaths (about 11,000 died in West Africa) were recorded in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“We have been training staffs for various pillars. We activated the emergency operation center at level two and we have created the pillars to support the center. We have been doing training and deployment of personnel into every pillar and these are the pillars we institute into different functions to enhance the Coronavirus preparedness and response activities,” said Rev. Can. Dr. T. T. Samba, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Sierra Leone has banned all flights to the country and deployed its military to help enforce the closure of its borders with Guinea and Liberia in efforts to prevent the virus from spilling over to communities. The activities of many establishments including schools, Mosques and Churches have been suspended indefinitely. President Julius Maada Bio last month declared State of Public Emergency and the country recently observed a nationwide lockdown for three days from April 5-7.

According to a survey conducted from March 18 to 24 by Sanusi Research & Consulting, a newly established local firm, 61 percent of respondents say they are somewhat satisfied with measures being introduced to deal with Coronavirus. 17 percent say they are very satisfied, and 16 percent say they are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Only 6 percent say they are somewhat dissatisfied.

The research firm’s daily update on the COVID-19 in West Africa showed on that Sierra Leone has recorded 7 cases of the disease, zero deaths and zero recovered.

The country’s policies on open data and public disclosure have resulted into the passing of the Right to Access Information Act in 2013 and the formation of the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) in 2014. “We try as much as possible to make data and information accessible to the public. Not only making it available to the public but in user friendly manner. All reports produced by us or our partners are published on our website for further research purposes,” said Ms. Clementina I. Akran, the Head of Open Data at Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats SL).

With Prof. Osman Sankoh as Statistician General, Stats SL was the first institution in Sierra Leone to develop a Publication Scheme according to the RAI Act, which resulted in Stats SL winning a gold medal.

Sierra Leone also moved upwards in the 2018/19 Open Data Inventory report (ODIN) from #122 in 2017 to #86 in 2018/19, according to Open Data Watch. However, open data on Sierra Leone shows that the Coronavirus came at a time when the country is ranked 181 out of 189 countries in 2019 by the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI).

The 2019 HDI open data suggests that only 16 percent of Sierra Leoneans use improved sanitation facilities and majority die before their 54th birthday. Incidence of diseases such as Malaria and Tuberculosis is still high. Moreover, the infant and under-five mortality rate is 81 deaths per 1,000 live births and 110 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively. Sierra Leone suffers from one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio of 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births.

“Data can help us understand the causes of these unnecessary deaths and how to prevent them,” says the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). GPSDD gives an example where satellite and cell phone data has supported the elimination of malaria in Namibia.

Namibia has identified 80,000 people most critical to slowing malaria transmission. The identification allows interventions like “bed net distribution to be optimally targeted to disrupt the infection cycle, reducing the cost of reaching to the whole population” in the Southern African country.

Sierra Leone now collects data for 24 indicators of the Sustainable Development Goal number 3 (SDG3) out of the 27 indicators meant to measure progress in achieving good health and wellbeing by 2030, according to Mr. Salieu Mansaray, a senior Statistician at Stats SL. Moreover, Stats SL says it uses modern technology to collect data on 19 of the SDG3 indicators.

Stats SL, with the support of development partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank, have conducted series of surveys to collect data that measures the health and wellbeing of the population. According to its 2019 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 68 percent of households have at least one insecticide-treated net (ITN).  However, the malaria incident rate in Sierra Leone is 379 per 1,000 people at risk, the HDI shows for 2019.

Moreover, the 2019 DHS findings suggest that 30 percent of children are stunted and only 54 percent of infants under age 6 months were found to be exclusively breastfed. Overall, 2 percent of children under age 5 showed symptoms of acute respiratory infection, 17 percent had a fever, and 7 percent experienced diarrhea.

Sierra Leone scores poorly not only in SDG3 indicators but also in all the 17 SDGS including quality education and no poverty. The expected schooling is 10 years and government expenditure on education is only 4.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while 57.9 percent of the population is in multidimensional poverty in 2019, according to HDI.

Stats SL always complains that widespread poverty and low level of education among the general public makes it difficult or sometimes impossible for them to collect accurate data even when they employ sophisticated technologies such as computer aided personal interview.

As the coronavirus continues to ravage various countries in the world researchers are busy to find ways and means as to how to combat it. Presently, antidotes are being tested to prove their efficacy in terms of treating the disease. It is in this light that an institute in Germany has created a special app which can be used on smartphones, smartwatches or fitness trackers specially designed to follow-up data on COVID-19

The personal data transmitted to the system contains information on a user’s gender, age, weight, height, physical activity and heart rate. The app would also recognise symptoms of rapid heart rate and sleep-wake disorders.

The Robert Koch Institute said that the app would also recognise symptoms of rapid heart rate and sleep-wake disorders. The institute added that the collected data would be used “exclusively for scientific purposes,” and that the app could not replace a diagnostic test for COVID-19.

According to the institute’s data, Germany has confirmed 99,225 COVID-19 cases, including 1,607 deaths. (ANI)



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