A new health link
As a natural progression of its friendship link with Bo, One World Link is now looking to establish a health link. Continuing in the spirit of support and friendship, Helena White was asked to investigate the possibility of this idea in her recent visit.
We visited Yemoh Town Peripheral Health Unit (PHU) just outside Bo town centre. This serves a community of approximately 17,000, conducts just under 1,000 deliveries and year and cares for around 2,500 children under 5. They run on skeleton staff (they have no trained midwives). One of the nurses is the daughter of Theresa Bangali, a long-standing member of the Bo OWL committee.
The unit has a half-finished building – walls and a roof – that is being used for children’s clinics. The existing building is mainly serviceable but an upgrade of basic equipment is desperately needed. A delivery bed – with only three legs and propped up at one end – had had three labouring women on the previous day.
Government supplies have been problematic, with a lack of some essential life saving obstetric drugs. We are now beginning to see malnourished children requiring administration of Plumpy’nut (a peanut-based paste for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition).
During our visit we discussed many aspects of the running of this small unit including the possibility of forming a link with OWL. We reiterated that the link is for sharing of skills and support, not for financial assistance or supply of large amounts of equipment. This was completely understood and we felt that just the suggestion of friendship and support was enough to lift their spirits and inspire them to improve things where they could e.g. asking a local carpenter if he would make a delivery bed with four legs to replace the one with three!
We also went to Bo Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit unit on the edge of the town, for which the Leamington pantomime raised some £6,000. BCH was set up by Dr Lemoh, a Sierra Leonean, to offer further support for the children of Bo. It has two wards and an isolation unit which is unusual in Sierra Leone but absolutely crucial in view of the recent Ebola epidemic. It also has a basic lab for diagnostics, an x-ray and an ultrasound machine.
We met with Mr Wusu Sannoh, hospital director (former Mayor of Bo and long-standing friend of OWL) and Dr Sombie, paediatrician in charge. Both gentlemen were delightful and obviously felt passionately about the future of the hospital. They were keen to computerise their records so we are discussing a collaboration with Warwick Hospital to produce a basic modular system.
Sierra Leone is one of the most hazardous places in the world to have a child. Women have a 1:21 chance of dying in childbirth and 25% of children don’t make it to their 5th birthday. By sharing our skills and offering friendship and support where we can, we can improve these statistics and improve the healthcare for the people of Bo.
Helena White is a community midwife based at Warwick hospital. Her own charity, The African Maternity Link, established in 2012, sends midwives to Sierra Leone to teach and update the midwives in practical skills and evidence-based knowledge.