Sierra Leone: a new clinic brings new joy
People living in developed countries often take access to healthcare for granted. However, in poorer countries such as Sierra Leone, quality healthcare can be a luxury reserved for the rich and powerful.
So when residents of Susan’s Bay, a waterfront slum community in Freetown, got a brand new community health centre (CHC) in March, courtesy of Save the Children, their joy knew no bounds.
Four months after it was built, the community of over thirty thousand people is still in a jubilant mood. The reason being that the health centre is the first-ever in Susan’s Bay’s 400-year history.
As our team entered the facility, we were welcomed by Mrs Alice Tamba, a community health officer in charge of the CHC.
Until the construction of the Susan’s Bay CHC, Mrs Tamba was the only health worker in the community to provide skeletal health services, working from a small room in her house.
The CHC now has a staff of three maternal and child health (MCH) aides. Mrs Tamba couldn’t hide her joy as she talked us through the successes of the CHC since it opened.
According to Mrs Tamba, “The people in Susan’s Bay were suffering a lot. There were a lot of sick people who needed help and couldn’t afford to go to the hospital.
“We’re getting more malnourished children coming for treatment. There are many pregnant women who have avoided the hospital, but now they’re coming to the CHC, attending the antenatal clinic and delivering their babies here.”
With the successes of the clinic come fresh challenges. Given the impact the CHC has had on the community, Mrs Tamba noted that “while we are grateful for the CHC, we can’t but ask for more help as it would go a long way in improving the lives of women and children in Susan’s Bay, especially building staff quarters.”
Providing quarters for staff would encourage MCH aides, nurses and community health officers stationed at Susan’s Bay to stay and attend to emergencies, patients and pregnant women who might need them in the night.
Mrs Tamba also mentioned how important it would be to secure the building by constructing a perimeter fence around the CHC.
Despite the CHC being built, there have been numerous cases of cholera this year as the rains have compounded the problem of Susan’s Bay’s total lack of sanitation and clean drinking water.
Three days after we visited, 13 adults and 58 under-fives in Marbella, and 27 adults and 57 under-fives developed cholera, highlighting the importance and necessity of working on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues, community mobilisation and education.
The demand for drugs, oral rehydration solutions and food supplements remains high and for the success of the CHC to be sustained, these need to be predictable.
More health workers
The CHC, which has now been handed over to the government to manage, is staffed entirely by government-trained and supported MCH aides. Doctors, nurses and midwives are limited to government hospitals.
It’s critical the government of Sierra Leone train more MCH aides and fill the huge gap in numbers, while also increasing the number of doctors, nurses and midwives. Ultimately it’s the MCH aides who have the most contact with poor communities.
As we walked through Susan’s Bay and Marbella, I couldn’t help but wonder how, despite the looming threat of a cholera outbreak, there was sheer joy in children’s faces, and how the CHC has given the community a new confidence and sense of pride.
A lot more needs to be done to sustain this joy and new spirit and Save the Children, together with our supporters worldwide, is determined to fight along with the people of Susan’s Bay and Marbella.
See the children of Susan’s Bay in the film below