As the Ebola epidemic continues to devastate the West African nation of Sierra Leone, Dromore man Major Jonathan Brice is deploying there to help in the fight against the deadly virus.
Major Brice, who serves with the reserve 253 Medical Regiment located at Sunnyside Street, was offered the opportunity to go due to his extensive humanitarian training.
“It’s exciting to be involved in this and I’m looking forward to getting out there and helping to make a difference,” said Major Brice. “I’m sure there will be difficulties but I’m not anxious. The others have been out there since October so they are fairly well established. In general the Ebola crisis seems to be on the decline, though there’s still a lot of work needs to be done to combat it.”
Major Brice will be based in the Headquarters of the Combined Joint Interagency Taskforce in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
“The Combined Joint Interagency Taskforce is comprised of Canadian and Irish troops, along with Save the Children. It is run by the Government department for internal development - so really the military and NGO’s are there in a supporting role.”
Major Brice, who is an environmental health officer, will have two main roles there.
“I’ll be looking after medical intelligence. This involves trying to see what upcoming problems there may be, for instance - in focusing so much on the fight against Ebola it’s possible other things may have been let to slip that might lead to future problems, so it’s about trying to anticipate what those might be.
“We also need to keep an eye on things like weather conditions - for instance the rainy season will cause ambulance and transport problems and also changes in pest control, so we need to watch out for these sort of things.
“I’ll also be looking after force health protection which involves looking after the health and welfare of troops on the ground. We check things like food safety and disease control - making sure people aren’t being bitten, and that they are drinking enough water.
“There’s about 11 treatment centres and I’ll be visiting each of them to see how they are getting on.”
Major Brice has previously deployed to countries including Bosnia, Kosovo and South Africa.