Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Improving child mortality

Our Medical Coordinator, Dr Emily Spry, is writing for the BMJ about her experiences at the hospital...


A relatively newly-posted medical officer told me how she resisted returning to the children’s hospital after her three month stint here as a house officer last year. “It was so awful when the children died, and they died all the time. I went home and cried every night.”

If you believe the stats (which are certainly not bulletproof but hopefully skewed in a fairly consistent way), the inpatient mortality rate has fallen from 15-20% in previous years to less than 7% last month. A large part of the credit must go to German charity Cap Anamur, which has implemented free drugs and basic disposables for all children admitted as inpatients. I’m hoping for further improvement this first month of our Emergency Room, though there are also seasonal variations; we should expect less mortality now that the rains have finished.

The medical officer was pleasantly surprised by how the hospital has changed in the past year, but it’s still tough on those days where several children die. She was particularly frustrated and upset the other morning, when it emerged that a child with meningitis who “passed off” had not been given his antibiotics overnight.

We discussed the different ways of addressing how this had happened and how to prevent future mistakes. Partly as a result, we’ll be restarting the lapsed “medical meetings” next week, which will look at difficult or troubling cases.

But when it came to the issue of trying to establish the details of who had done what on this particular night, she drew back. “I don’t believe in it myself,” she said, “but there are some people here who have special powers. There are people in this side of town where you can pay just ten thousand Leones [less than 2 GBP] and have a curse put on someone. I don’t want someone to have a reason to hate me.”

She related a tale of a friend who developed a severe skin condition that no conventional doctor could diagnose or treat. When she sought the traditional healers’ opinion, he was able to diagnose a curse and cure it with a special potion.

“As I say, I don’t really believe in it myself, but you have to be careful in this country.” She seems to believe it enough to avoid causing problems for a nurse whose neglect or mistake contributed to this child’s death.

Is this a cultural expression of something rather more familiar? No one wants to be seen to rock the boat, to point a finger of blame, because of the potentially dramatic social consequences.

Somehow we need to create an environment and a process through which we can examine what happens and raise the standard of care. It’s just, as always, a bit more complicated than I thought.

Emily Spry is a doctor from London who has taken a year out of her General Practice Specialty Training Programme to live and work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is working for the Welbodi Partnership, a charity which supports the main government Children’s Hospital in a country where more than one quarter of children die before their fifth birthday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recruiting: Voluntary Medical Coordinator 2010-2011

Voluntary Position Available – Medical Coordinator
Location: Freetown, Sierra Leone
Assignment Length: One year
Application Deadline: 31st January 2010
Starting – July 2010 (start date may be somewhat flexible)

Job Description

The Medical Coordinator (MC) will provide technical leadership and contribute to the development and implementation of ongoing and new project activities aimed at improving the quality of paediatric health care in Sierra Leone, starting at the country’s only specialist paediatric facility, Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH).


The Medical Coordinator (MC) is responsible for the design and implementation of all medical project work. This includes:

1. Needs assessment and planning: Work with partners in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) and Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH), to identify barriers to the delivery of timely and effective healthcare for children and develop ongoing plans to address these barriers.

2. Implementation: Take joint responsibility with ODCH management and staff for implementing medical project work. This may include coordinating and delivering in-service training for healthcare workers, promoting improved clinical standards and supporting the introduction of new technologies and techniques.

3. Monitoring and evaluation: Together the Welbodi Directors and local partners, design and implement systems to monitor the process, effectiveness, and impact of activities on desired outcome measures.

4. Relationships: Work closely with doctors, nurses and other staff in the hospital to ensure good communication between ODCH and the Welbodi Partnership on all issues. Periodically meet with donors, international and local NGOs, and MoHS to update them. Where appropriate, you may develop collaborations and partnerships within broader efforts to reduce child mortality in Sierra Leone.

5. Fundraising: Help the Welbodi Partnership fundraisers to identify funding needs and provide appropriate technical information as necessary in the development of fundraising materials and proposals.

6. Clinical Work. Engage in direct patient care in order to maintain clinical skills and gain first-hand knowledge of the realities of patient care within this environment.

1. Medical or nursing degree is essential with at least two years experience working in health care. Additional postgraduate qualification in international development, public health or public policy is highly desirable.
2. Professional experience of healthcare in Africa.
3. In-depth, substantive knowledge of healthcare policy in developing countries.
4. Excellent people skills and a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds in a dynamic and constantly-shifting environment.
5. Excellent written and oral English communication skills.
6. Flexibility, focus, and the presence of mind to work in sometimes difficult and chaotic circumstances.
7. Commitment to the goals and principles of the Welbodi Partnership.


The Welbodi Partnership (WP) is a UK-registered charity established to support the provision of paediatric health care in Sierra Leone and in particular to support the Sierra Leone Institute for Child Health (SLICH). SLICH is a joint project between the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ola During Children’s Hospital, and the Welbodi Partnership to create a centre of excellence in paediatric care. It forms part of the Government of Sierra Leone’s Strategic Plan for Reproductive and Child Health.

Ola During is Sierra Leone’s only specialist children’s hospital, located on Fourah Bay Road in the poor and densely-populated eastern part of Freetown. More than 15,000 patients are treated at the hospital each year, spread across two inpatient wards, an outpatient department, emergency room, ICU and a therapeutic feeding centre. The hospital is extremely under-resourced, however, and providing adequate care is still a challenge.

To learn more about us, please visit our website at www.welbodipartnership.org.

We are seeking an individual to fill the role of Medical Coordinator described above, who will work alongside the two Welbodi Partnership Directors in Freetown and in the UK, our Fundraisers and a network of local and international partners.

Interested candidates should please send a CV and cover letter by 31st January 2010 for the attention of: Matthew Clark


Further Important information for applicants

The Welbodi Partnership is a small organisation with limited financial resources. To keep our overheads low, this position has been filled on a voluntary basis over the past 2 years.

We are willing to contribute towards cost of travel, visas, and medical insurance, but you would need to cover your own living expenses.

In order for you to decide whether or not you can do so, we want you to know what to expect in terms of the cost of living. Although Sierra Leone is a very poor country, it is surprisingly expensive to live an expatriate lifestyle. You can get a relatively simple self-contained local-style flat for around $3,000 per year, but it may not have running water (instead you'd find someone to bring you buckets of water each day), frequent electricity (you could buy and fuel a private generator), or modern appliances.

In contrast, a room in a larger, higher-end house in one of the nicer areas of town will likely run you upwards of $400 per month, plus $200-300 more for electricity, water, a cleaner, internet, etc. Likewise, it is possible to by a local meal of rice and sauce for just a few dollars, but an individual pizza in one of the more upmarket Western-style restaurants costs $12. And taking local shared taxis back and forth to the hospital would cost about $1-2 / day, while chartering an individual taxi could run $10-15 per day and buying and fuelling a private vehicle is similar.

As the Medical Coordinator of the Welbodi Partnership, you would have a direct and significant impact on the quality of care provided to children both at ODCH and throughout the paediatric healthcare system. You would be part of building a relatively new organization from the ground up, of identifying and implementing high-impact interventions -- including quality training for Sierra Leone's young doctors and nurses -- and of building a foundation for lasting change. You would join a committed core team and would be responsible for leveraging the contributions of a wider network of volunteers and partners to bring significant and lasting change to ODCH.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The devil is in the detail

Our Medical Coordinator, Dr Emily Spry, is writing for the BMJ about her experiences at the hospital...


The devil is in the detail

It might seem odd that the most challenging folk to work with here are not the Sierra Leonean ones. Sometimes the toughest part is dealing with the endeavours of my fellow “whiteman”.

“Development” can be a painful business. It’s painful because of the contrast between what is promised and what is possible, what is dreamed versus what is ever implemented or achieved.

In a country as poor as Sierra Leone, it is so easy to “see” solutions, so easy to make big promises - so much could be fixed with so little, everywhere you turn. Or so it seems.

The truth is, of course, that if it were easy, someone would have done it long ago.

The devil is in the detail, every time. And the details are messy, dirty, tiresome and impossible to uncover from the sanctity of an air-conditioned office.

A classic example is the two giant generators sitting quietly in a building at the back of the Children’s Hospital. Installed during the “rehabilitation” of the Hospital in the early 1990s, just after the war, these were paid for by an African Development Bank loan.

Despite the fact that the regular power cuts leave the hospital operating by candlelight, they have never been used. Why?

Generators of that size use 16 gallons per hour of fuel such that running them would cost 240,000 Leones (around 40 pounds) per hour.

This fuel cost per hour is around the price of employing a full-time nurse for a month. Even if the Hospital received its meagre budget from the Ministry (which it has not so far in 2009), the generators are useless.

Who on earth would buy such a thing with money meant to get the hospital back on its feet? And why are they not held accountable?

In fact, these generators were paid for by Western tax payers. Even more painfully, they are paid for by the ordinary Sierra Leonean who should have got rather more development bang for their aid buck. Every dollar wasted is not just a dollar wasted. It’s a dollar that should have been spent on something better.

Being white here, and particularly British, bring great benefits to one’s self-esteem. Many Sierra Leoneans credit the British army with ending their decade-long war and we are often joyfully hailed as “IMATT” (the remaining British military representatives here) as we drive our old Landrover around town. Strangers regularly thank us for our work, without ever asking what we are actually doing in Freetown.

But when I look at how often the “whiteman” has stood so proud and magnanimous and then failed to deliver, I feel acutely ashamed.

Emily Spry is a doctor from London who has taken a year out of her General Practice Specialty Training Programme to live and work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is working for the Welbodi Partnership, a charity which supports the main government Children’s Hospital in a country where more than one quarter of children die before their fifth birthday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Emergency Room Progress

Our Medical Coordinator, Dr Emily Spry, is writing for the BMJ about her experiences at the hospital...


Emily Spry on ER in the Pikin Hospital

Pikin HospitalI am happy and exhausted at the end of the first week of the new Triage system and Emergency Room at the Children’s Hospital. Around 80 children present to the hospital each day and Triage nurses now briefly assess them and rush those with Emergency signs to the new 3-bedded ER. There they are assessed and given emergency treatment by a team of specially-trained nurses and the Medical Officer on call.

After 4 days of training last week, the nurses are showing great enthusiasm. I have seen several cases where their prompt intervention bought the child crucial time, allowing a happy outcome instead of a tragic one. This is particularly the case with the hypoglycaemia associated with malaria and malnutrition. It is hard to describe the buzz you get when a grey, clammy, barely-breathing child wakes up after their dextrose infusion and starts screaming. The nurses had most of the skills and knowledge before, but the ER seems to allow everyone to focus their attention on the sickest children for the crucial first half hour or so after they arrive.

That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing. It quickly emerged that, despite recent payments to the hospital electricians to renovate the room, none of the plugs in the ER work. Our brand new oxygen concentrator tubing now stretches across from another bay and is trampled on every few minutes. The concentrator also has a two-pin plug; the nurses do a hair-raising trick with a pair of scissors to jam it into the three-pin sockets.

There is no precise system for sharps collection or disposal. Although this part of Africa has a relatively low HIV prevalence, this is clearly still breath-takingly dangerous for all involved. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the standard method of waste disposal in Freetown is to chuck it over the nearest wall, which doesn’t give me great confidence about where our lovely mixed clinical waste is going.

But it’s one day at a time… this weekend I’m buying some plastic buckets so that water for hand-washing can be fetched when the taps go off. Maybe I’ll buy an extension cable and a plug adapter too. At some point in the next few months, I’ll spend a day following the cleaners and pondering how to make a sharps bin that has no resale value (else it will undoubtedly be emptied and recycled somewhere along the chain).

Staffing the new ER was in its first week was complicated somewhat by it coinciding with the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association annual conference, in which several of our Medical Officers played a role.

Amazingly for a country of 6 million people, there is only one fully-trained Paediatrician in Government Service in Sierra Leone, Dr David Baion, who is the Acting Medical Director of the Children’s Hospital. The Ministry also allocates 10 other doctors, including 5 newly-graduated doctors on three month placements. The five Medical Officers, two of whom work part-time elsewhere, are the more experienced and mostly hope to stay in Paediatrics, although there is as yet no formal Postgraduate Training available to doctors in Sierra Leone. The Medical Officers graduated between 1 and 5 years ago and some have special roles in treating TB and HIV.

One of the Medical Officers, Dr Freddie Coker, is on permanent night shifts. If you can imagine it, this means that Freddie works every night of the year, except when he can get a colleague to cover for him. What would the European Union have to say about that? With Freddie on nights, that leaves two full-time and two part-time doctors to cover the ER, Wards and Outpatients by day, with the help of the House Officers. When I collapse in a heap after a morning in the ER, I do wonder how they do it.

Emily Spry is a doctor from London who has taken a year out of her General Practice Specialty Training Programme to live and work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is working for the Welbodi Partnership, a charity which supports the main government Children’s Hospital in a country where more than one quarter of children die before their fifth birthday.

Emergency Room Opened

At the end of October, the Welbodi Partnership trained 20 nurses in Triage and Emergency Care, with help from colleagues from VSO, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust Link and Cap Anamur.

The programme was a great success and the staff are now working well in the new Triage and Emergency Room, which opened on the 1st of November.

This is the first time that the Hospital has had an Emergency Room and a robust Triage process for prioritising the treatment of the sickest kids who come to the hospital. The new facilities and equipment, combined with the new skils of the staff, should help give the Emergency cases a better chance of survival.

Emily Spry, our Medical Coordinator, is writing about her experiences at the Children's Hospital on the BMJ website and here are her reflections on the training and nursing at the Children's Hospital from the BMJ site.


Emily Spry on nursing in Sierra Leone

The nurse steps forward into the circle, putting her hands together. She prays aloud, “in Jesus’ name,” asking that our four day workshop at the Children’s Hospital be blessed, “so that we might put everything that we have learnt into practice.” After a rousing Christian song, we proceed directly to the Muslim prayer. Nearly every nurse who clapped, sang and loudly proclaimed “Amen” now turns her palms to the ceiling and intones in Arabic. Quietly atheist, I vaguely join in with the gestures; luckily no one expects me to know the words.

Such religious tolerance is the norm in Sierra Leone, though I do wonder if my faithlessness would be as well accepted, if I were more open about it. Either way, I’m sure that this society has much to teach, as well as to learn. Someone told me that life is so hard here that the wise hedge their bets; mosque on Friday and church on Sunday. A nurse whose birthday it was told me that she would spend her special day praying that she will see another one next year. With average life expectancy in the 40s, it is perhaps unsurprising that people in their 30s are nervous.

The last day of our Emergency Assessment and Treatment workshop for the nurses this week coincided with pay day. The junior nurses receive 120,000 Leones (around 20 GBP) per month from the government for working a six day week. It’s not enough even to buy rice for an average family for the month, though many nurses are the only breadwinner. At the Children’s hospital, a charity provides a monthly top-up of a further 50,000 Leones (around 8 GBP), still little more than the average monthly spend on getting public transport to work.

Nurses’ neglecting to come to work at all is a major problem at the Children’s Hospital, particularly at night. To make ends meet, staff often take part- or even full-time jobs in private healthcare facilities, on top of their government jobs. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has central control of staffing, making it hard for the Children’s Hospital to replace those who do not attend.

But, as I consider the small pile of tatty bank notes that the nurses are taking home for the month, I wonder about things the other way around. While some do not attend, most are there, many working longer than their hours rostered. Why do they come to work at all? The Children’s Hospital is trying hard but is chronically under-resourced and treating a poor and sick population; around 1 in 10 children who are admitted die.

As I see it, these nurses are no different to healthcare professionals elsewhere. Yes, they want to be paid; they need to eat and they have families to support. But that’s not the only reason they work here. They are here because of the respect that they get from their community for their skills, even if that means being woken in the night by a neighbour with a sick child. They are here because of the gratitude of parents when a child recovers. They are here because they enjoy the camaraderie with colleagues who have also seen life and death and everything in between.

Emily Spry is a doctor from London who has taken a year out of her General Practice Specialty Training Programme to live and work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is working for the Welbodi Partnership, a charity which supports the main government Children’s Hospital in a country where more than one quarter of children die before their fifth birthday.

New Medical Coordinator

Dr Emily Spry recently started at the Hospital, where she will be spending a year working as the Medical Coordinator.

She is writing about her experiences for the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and we will also post these pieces here.


Emily Spry’s first impressions of working in Sierra Leone

Pikin HospitalI’m excited to have started at the Ola During Children’s Hospital in Freetown, after hearing so much about it from the Welbodi Partnership, the charity I’ll be working for over the next year.

On first impressions, things at the hospital look good. There are freshly painted wards and uniformed nurses. There are notices on the wall: “Drugs for inpatients are now free” (thanks to a German charity). The outpatient benches are lined with parents and kids, waiting to be called into three consulting rooms. The observation ward is full of children, one loudly fighting off the advances of a nurse brandishing a cannula.

But look beneath the surface, and you start to see the problems. The Pikin Hospital (the name given to the Ola During Children’s Hospital in Krio, the lingua franca of Sierra Leone, meaning children’s hospital) has its outpatient department, three main wards and a newly-introduced intensive care unit.

The ICU would not be recognisable as such to those of you who are used to the hush of ventilators and the banks of machines that go “ping”. “Intensive care” is defined by its relatively high staff-to-patient ratio, but it’s 4 nurses and 4 untrained nursing aides to around 30 sick children, all lined up cross-ways in 10 adult sized beds. The only equipment is a lone oxygen concentrator, with tubing splitting the precious gas four ways, and an oxygen saturation probe to help doctors decide who gets to use some.

Around 10% of the children admitted each day die, usually within 24 hours of admission and usually due to severe malaria, anaemia, sepsis, dehydration, malnutrition or, more often, a combination of several of these.

After a while, you start to see what is lacking. Sitting with the busy medical officers in outpatients, you realise that they have to make decisions without access to even basic investigations. Those they can order, parents may not be able to afford.

As a parent, the odds are stacked against you. The hospital charges a flat fee of 15,000 Leones (around 2.50 GBP or 3 USD). This might sound trivial, but when more than half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, it’s a crippling cost for many. Inpatient drugs are currently free but outpatient drugs must be bought and counterfeit drugs are common.

If you have four kids and one of them is about to cost you the family food budget for the month, it’s not an easy decision to make. If your child has a chronic disease, such as sickle cell disease, and gets ill repeatedly, it’s not hard to see why you might feel unable to follow the doctor’s advice.

So, as soon as you start thinking about this your head starts spinning. Everywhere you look, there are little things that might make a huge difference, things that it might be in your power to influence. What if I went out right now and bought 30 thermometers? What if we could find a way to get people to donate blood? What if we could find a haematological hero in the UK who would come out and set up blood screening? What if I could persuade someone to donate an Xray machine? What if I could train the nurses to recognise the sickest kids and act on it? Where on earth to begin?

And then the doubts also bubble up to the surface. Who will ensure that equipment is used properly? And maintained? What if things are stolen? How would the government-employed laboratory technicians here react if someone tried to set up a parallel service to take away their only income? Will giving the nurses and doctors more work to do really help? Will my NHS-learnt ways of working actually be useful here? Or would they upset a delicate balance that stops everything falling apart? Can I realistically do anything here that will last after I’ve gone? How can we decide the best way to treat kids here when we don’t even have basic diagnostic tests? Could even the best hospital in the world help the children brought by their parents only when they are at death’s door?

Luckily for me, the Welbodi Partnership have spent some years building up their relationship with the hospital and refining an approach that combines their optimistic vision with the patience to grapple with the day to day limitations of the hospital. My project is to set up a Triage system and an Emergency Room, to try to focus staff and resources on the sickest kids each day. It’s going to be interesting…

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thank you to RTC North!

As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, RTC North has announced plans to raise £50,000 for The Welbodi Partnership. The company will host a special charity dinner and auction at Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham on November 10 and marked the start of its fundraising efforts by donating £7,700 to buy a new generator.

Since 1989, RTC North has helped thousands of companies introduce new products, helping create jobs, wealth and a better quality of life for the people of Northern England. CEO, Gordon Ollivere MBE, has a longstanding interest in technology for developing countries having worked as a volunteer in Sierra Leone and Nigeria during the 1970s.

“I am delighted to announce that this year we are celebrating 20 years of working with industry, education and government in the North East," said Ollivere.

“Rather than just having a party, our staff felt it would be much better to mark the occasion by undertaking some fund-raising for a worthwhile charity."

Ollivere continued, “Through our NHS Innovations project we work a lot with medical technologies and both this company and the region have historical links with Sierra Leone. The country’s only university used to be a college of Durham University, and its former Pro-Vice Chancellor and first RTC North chairman was John Clarke who wrote one of the first books about Sierra Leone."

“Sierra Leone has some of the world’s worst child health statistics and because the work of the Welbodi Partnership is having such a massive and recognisable impact we have decided to adopt it as our favoured charity.”

RTC North's first donation will fund a much-needed back-up generator to ensure constant electricity for the hospital. “A big issue for the hospital is the electricity supply is very unreliable," explains Welbodi Director Dr. Matthew Clark. "Currently, when the power fails the hospital is plunged into darkness and essential equipment like oxygen concentrators are rendered useless. The generator funded by RTC North will be a great help and we look forward to the company’s ongoing support.”

For more information on RTC North’s charity dinner and auction visit www.rtcnorth.co.uk or email charity.dinner@rtcnorth.co.uk. To donate direct visit the Welbodi Partnership's online donation page.

Introducing an exciting new ODCH partner

We are delighted to announce more support for the Ola During Children's Hospital (ODCH). Cap Anamur, a German NGO which previously supported ODCH during the war, have also agreed to support the children’s hospital for at least one year. Already Cap Anamur are providing a supply of drugs and are busy repainting the wards. They also have two German nurses and a program director based full-time at the hospital, and all three are working hard to improve care. It is a real pleasure to be working with Llona, Denise and Hassan, and we look forward to collaborating with them over the next year.

The number of patients admitted to ODCH has increased dramatically in recent months. The Government of Sierra Leone has closed down numerous unlicensed clinics and the supply of drugs by Cap Anamur have dramatically boosted patient numbers. This sudden and significant increase in hospital admission has put a strain on existing hospital facilities. The hospital had already opened a very basic intensive care unit, which is now overflowing with patients. Over the next few months, the Welbodi Partnership will be working with ODCH to improve the existing intensive care unit and also open an emergency department.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Celebrate the colors of Freetown with JHill Design

Need a gift for those summer weddings? Planning ahead for Christmas?

Artist Jennifer Hill’s beautiful Places I Have Never Been series is inspired by her imaginary vacations around the world. These amazing prints capture the spirit and colors of different countries and cities. Each eye-catching design is accompanied by details about the destination, presenting the impressions of different towns and bringing them home.

The collection now includes a wonderful print of Freetown. Not only will this make a great gift for those who hold Sierra Leone dear, it will also help everyone at the Ola During Children’s Hospital.

JHill Design will donate 25% of the proceeds for this print to the Welbodi Partnership. You can buy your print here online:

We want to thank JHill Design for such a generous and unique contribution. We hope that you all will enjoy the prints as a reminder and celebration of Freetown.

New Welbodi Partnership Team

We are thrilled to introduce the new members of our team.

Ishmael Turay – Ishmael is a Medical Officer at the Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH), and has been a core Welbodi partner since 2007. Ishmael has now been appointed as the Welbodi liaison officer. He will be responsible for coordinating all volunteers as well as supervising the use of donated equipment and helping to prepare proposals for the SLICH board.

Emily Spry – Emily is a primary care doctor from the UK with a special interest in training health care workers. She will be volunteering in Sierra Leone for a year and her work at ODCH will concentrate on training.

Fiona Ringholz - Fiona is a paediatrican from the UK who will be based at ODCH for one year. The placement has been organised by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), but we will be working closely with Fiona to help make her placement as successful as possible.

Sarah Jones - Sarah will be joining Welbodi in October. Sarah previously worked as a fundraiser for The Amy Biehl Foundation, an NGO based in South Africa, and will be working as a full-time fundraising and publicity volunteer for the Welbodi Partnership.

Matthew Clark
– Matthew, a co-director of the Welbodi Partnership, will be based at ODCH from September until November. Matthew will be making sure the new team get settled in and overseeing all our work at ODCH.

We bid farewell to a visionary leader, and welcome a new head of hospital

It is with sadness but with great affection that the Ola During Children’s Hospital and the Welbodi Partnership bid farewell to Dr Muctarr AS Jalloh, who retired in August as head of the hospital. We cannot thank Dr, Jalloh enough for all he’s done for the hospital, nor express how much he will be missed. He has been a core supporter of the Welbodi Partnership and the Sierra Leone Institute for Child Health from the very beginning, and we would never have been able to get off the ground without him.

We won't say goodbye to Dr. Jalloh, because we know he'll stay a friend and supporter. In the meantime, we only hope that our work will be a fitting legacy for Dr. Jalloh’s tremendous commitment to the hospital and the children of Sierra Leone, and we send him all of our best wishes in his new endeavors.

We also want to send a warm welcome Dr. David Baion, the new acting specialist-in-charge, and wish him all the very best in his new position.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ola During Children’s Hospital Goes Online - Thank You to LimeLine, IMATT, and friends!

Thanks to LimeLine, one of Sierra Leone's leading internet service providers, the Ola During Children’s Hospital and neighbouring Princess Christian Maternity Hospital now have network connections and free internet service for the next year. This connectivity will help improve the service the hospitals can provide, through online opportunities for staff training and medical research. We are also exploring possibilities for e-medicine and remote consultation by paediatric specialists outside of Sierra Leone.

This generous donation from LimeLine quite literally connects the hospital to the rest of the world! Thank you!

Huge thanks are also owed to other people who donated time, money, and expertise to get the hospitals online.

Thank you to our friends at the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) in Freetown, who donated materials as well as their expertise to help install the network. We really appreciate the time and resources they have given us.

Finally, a massive thank you to Meghan and Carol Roecklein, who deserve credit both for spearheading this effort and for their time, energy and support along the way. This would never have happened without you!

Launch of the Sierra Leone Institute of Child Health

Many of you as regular supporters will know we have spent the last 12 months establishing the Sierra Leone Institute of Child Health (SLICH) to improve paediatric care in Sierra Leone.

June marked the official launch of SLICH. Already it has begun to work towards its aims: bringing the right people together, identifying where the need is greatest, and making sure lasting changes happen.

So far we have:

A new proposal process in place

SLICH looks to local people and the staff of the Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH) to acquire the best understanding of what the hospital and its young patients need. Staff and other stakeholders are encouraged to submit short proposals for funding and support. The SLICH board – which includes representatives from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, ODCH, and the Welbodi Partnership – then reviews these proposals at quarterly meetings. Funds for approved projects or supplies are released to ODCH, which must then account for those funds at the next SLICH meeting.

We believe that local planning and implementation are fundamental to our aim to improve paediatric care, and we're very excited about the SLICH funding process as a way to empower the ODCH staff and managers to propose and deliver improvements to their hospital.

Acted upon the following proposals

The first SLICH board meeting took place in June. The approved proposals represented a total budget of Le 91,419,000 (approx $23,000). These are now underway and include:

• Provision of library facilities
• Purchase of a standby generator and construction of a generator house
• Plumbing and electrical repairs
• Accommodation for visiting doctors

Call for new proposals

The second SLICH board meeting was held on 2nd October, and the ODCH staff and managers came up with a fresh round of exciting and important proposals to improve the quality of care and training at ODCH.

Stay tuned for details on these proposals and the SLICH board’s funding decisions for the final quarter of 2009.

A Note from Us

Dear friends and supporters,

You may have wondered why you haven't heard from us in some time. Our apologies for the long silence -- we've been in a period of transition and have also been extremely busy here on the ground with lots of exciting initiatives.

Over the next week we'll be posting a number of long-overdo updates to this blog, which we'll then pull together into a newsletter. We hope you'll enjoy these updates and thanks as always for your support!

The Welbodi Partnership

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cyclist “Takes on Africa”


Would you cycle 20,000 km to raise money for children half a world away?

Helen Lloyd would.

In just a week, Helen departs from the UK on a two-year cycling trip from the tip to toe of Africa, which will end in Cape Town in 2011.  The trip is entirely self-funded and all money raised goes directly to the Welbodi Partnership.

We can’t thank Helen enough, and we wish her great luck and wonderful adventures along the way!

To learn more about her trip, visit the Take On Africa website. To donate and support the Welbodi Partnership, visit her JustGiving site. Consider pledging just $0.01 per km she rides, and donate $200 to help save the lives of children at the Ola During Children’s Hospital.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mothers matter

Sierra Leone’s First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma – a former nurse – has taken up the cause of reducing maternal mortality. Today, women in Sierra Leone have a lifetime risk of dying in childbirth of 1 in 8. Even that devastating statistic understates the real tragedy, however, because far too often when a mother dies, her newborn child follows soon thereafter. And we don’t need to point out what this means for the other children she leaves behind.

Here is First Lady Koroma writing recently in the Huffington Post, arguing that “It’s Time to Make Mothers a Priority.”

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gifts from the US Embassy

The American Embassy in Freetown has become one of the newest supporters of the Welbodi Partnership and the Ola During Children’s Hospital.

Here are Embassy staff Lisa Baker and Laura Kustaborder, with ODCH matron Ruby IMG_0285Williams. They came to visit the hospital in April, to hand over the proceeds from a charity Mardi Gras ball the Embassy co-hosted in March to benefit the Welbodi Partnership and other charities.  The ball raised more than six million Leones – about $2,000 – and half of this went to the Ola During Children’s Hospital.

IMG_0277Staff of the hospital were grateful for the Embassy’s support. ODCH Specialist-in-Charge Dr. MAS Jalloh (right, with Laura) thanked the Embassy representatives and asked them to remember the hospital in the future. He also assured them that any donations would be well-used.

Since then, the Embassy has begun helping in ways big and small. Ambassador June Carter Perry met with the Welbodi Partnership coordinators to find out more about the organization’s work.  Lisa has agreed to help sell Sweet Salone cookbooks, the proceeds from which benefit the Welbodi Partnership, around the Embassy offices. And Laura, the Embassy’s health practitioner, arranged for a donation of new and used medical equipment to ODCH and the neighboring maternity hospital.

IMG_4136This equipment included a portable suction machine, boxes of oxygen masks and nasal cannulas, crutches, and other assorted supplies (see photo, right). She is also working to organize a blood drive for Embassy personnel to benefit the government’s blood services, which struggle with a constant shortage of blood.

We thank the Embassy staff for their support and look forward to a long partnership.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Welbodi Partnership in New York!

Will you be in New York on May 26, 2009? If so, please join us for an exciting event at the beautiful Fourth Universalist Society of New York. Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Joseph Stiglitz and Bloomberg News Editor-at-Large Mr. Robert Friedman take the stage, with a display of photographs by Czech photographer David Lacina for sale. You can check out details below, or find our event on Facebook. RSVP to welbodinyc@gmail.com or by phone at (917) 945-7879. Proceeds benefit the Welbodi Partnership and our work to support paediatric healthcare in Sierra Leone.

Many thanks to Welbodi Partnership supporters Hien Dao and Jimena Zuniga for organizing this event!

Invites you to an evening with

Dr. Joseph Stiglitz

Nobel Laureate and Columbia University Professor of Economics

Discussing "THE $12 TRILLION TRAP: The Economic Crisis, the Obama Administration's Response and Its Global Impact"

Moderated by Bloomberg News Editor-at-Large Mr. Robert Friedman
With an exhibition of photographs of Sierra Leone by Czech photographer David Lacina

May 26th 2009, 7-9 PM
Fourth Universalist Society of New York
160 Central Park West at 76th Street

Please RSVP at welbodinyc@gmail.com or by phone at (917) 945-7879

A minimum donation of $25 is requested. Exhibition photographs will be available for sale at $100. All cash donations and half of sale
proceeds will go towards supporting the Welbodi Partnership, a charity dedicated to improving the provision of pediatric care in Sierra Leone. The event is made possible through the kind support
of Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, the Fourth Universalist Society of New York, Mrs. Anya Stiglitz, Mr. Robert Friedman and Mr. David

US donors can make tax-deductible donations to the Welbodi Partnership through FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds

By check: Please make checks payable to FJC and write “Welbodi Partnership” in the memo line of the check. Checks are accepted at our May 26 event or can be mailed directly to: FJC, 520 Eighth Ave., 20th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

By credit card: Please visit our website http://www.welbodipartnership.org/ to make a donation online.

By cash: Cash donations will be accepted at our May 26 event.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Securing the Pikin Dem

IMG_3799The Welbodi Partnership is pleased to introduce a guest blogger from the Freetown-based International Military Advisory and Training Team  (IMATT). Major G D Hogg of the UK Royal Marines has been volunteering his time over the last few months to help upgrade security at the compound shared by the Ola During Children’s Hospital and the neighboring Princess Christian Maternity Hospital.

With Major Hogg’s help, the hospitals have formed a joint security committee and have identified steps to ensure the safety of patients and staff and the security of equipment and supplies. These include training for the hospital security guards, delivered by IMATT’s own security team. Below is an account from Major Hogg from the first of these training sessions.

The Welbodi Partnership and our hospital partners are grateful to Major Hogg and to his IMATT security colleagues for all their time and effort in planning and executing this project.


On Friday April 3, I arrived at the “Cottage” hospital compound housing the Ola During Children’s Hospital and Princess Christian Maternity Hospital with a team of very excited IMATT security officers for the first day of security training for the hospitals’ own security team. The aim of this first day was twofold: to instill a sense of pride and confidence among the hospitals’ security officers; and to introduce them to specific security tactics and procedures.

clip_image002The day began with a morning of lectures delivered by locally employed IMATT Security Officers covering various topics such as public relations, crowd control, use of equipment, and patrolling techniques, followed by practical training in the afternoon around the hospital site.

It was clear from the outset that the guards were at a novice level regarding some of their procedures and tactics. However, this was overcome by a keen desire to learn and by limitless enthusiasm from all who took part.

clip_image006This was highlighted during equipment training, which injected a bit of unexpected humor into the day. After receiving a demonstration on how to use hand-cuffs properly, all of the guards were given their own sets to practice with on each other and then keep for future use. After a flurry of activity in which everyone grabbed a set and put them on their respective “partners”, they all realized that the keys were mixed up in a pile at the bottom of the bag.

This all occurred at 11 a.m., at which time I decided to escape for a long lunch to return at 1p.m., when the final student was being “released”.

It was encouraging to see throughout the morning’s lectures and discussion that the guards were sensitive to the issues surrounding security at both hospitals such as the movement of staff at night, single females, and most importantly the patients. To that end, discussion was key when exploring scenarios and at every juncture a robust and workable solution was sought.clip_image002[1]

The afternoon involved a practical security patrol, where the guards were taken around the perimeter of the hospital site and issues and scenarios were discussed. Here, it was key that a solution to the problems presented, came from the guards themselves, and for most cases they presented intelligent and well thought out answers.



The next phase of the training will involve specific modules in vehicle searching, controlling entrance and exit points of the hospital site and night patrolling (to be conducted during night time hours at the hospital). The IMATT security guards thoroughly enjoyed the chance to stand up in front of a class of students and pass on their knowledge and experience and will be involved in all future training.

The day was a complete success. The guards reacted well to the training and instruction that they were given and showed animated enthusiasm for further training. The purchase of more equipment such as flashlights and night uniforms will be a catalyst to exploit further advances to those made so far.


The Ola During Children’s Hospital and Princess Christian Maternity Hospital Security Team

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Welbodi on the road: London

Recently, Welbodi Partnership representatives traveled to the US and the UK to raise awareness about our work, recruit volunteers and supporters, and raise funds.

Here is a recent news article about an event we held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

Many thanks to Welbodi friends and supporters Sarah Froome, Krystle Lai, and Yani Tyskerud for their help organizing this event, and to all of you who attended.

Would you like to help organize a Welbodi Partnership fundraising event in your hometown? Please contact us at info(at)welbodipartnership.org to find out how.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Salma Hayek and Sierra Leone

So it seems that Salma Hayek’s breast is all it takes to get pediatric health in Sierra Leone on the public’s radar.

We should have thought of that a long time ago.

In this ABC News piece, Salma first visits the Ola During Children’s Hospital, Sierra Leone’s only government children’s hospital, where the Welbodi Partnership works to help improve the standard of care provided to sick children. There she watches a week-old baby die a terribly painful (and utterly preventable) death from tetanus.

Tragically, this is not unusual. One in six children in Sierra Leone die in infancy. One in four die before their fifth birthday.

Salma then goes upcountry, to the provincial capital (misleadingly called “a remote corner of the country” by the ABC folks) of Makeni. Once there, she decides to breastfeed a tiny baby whose mother did not have milk to give.

This, of course, is what set the news media and blogosphere abuzz. Famous Hollywood actress gives breast to poor African child. History upended as light-skinned wet nurse feeds dark-skinned child. Bodily fluids shared on camera.

Breastfeeding is incredibly important to the health of young children, particularly in places like Sierra Leone, and is one of the best ways to ensure proper nutrition and protect against illness. And if Salma Hayek’s breast helps raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding, so be it. (Though I can’t help but point out that Sierra Leoneans are much less abuzz about this than the rest of the world. The vast majority will never see this footage or the headlines that have accompanied it, and in any case have no idea who Salma Hayek is. At the hospital, we turned up the day after this film crew and were told only that some white people had visited the day before; none of the staff knew how famous she was.)

But the film’s focus on breastfeeding and on other preventive measures – specifically a vaccine to prevent tetanus – ignores another reality, one evident in the first few minutes of the piece when Salma watches that tiny baby die in what should be Sierra Leone’s premier pediatric care facility.

The Ola During Children’s Hospital should be in a position to provide accessible, high-quality care to sick children. Parents should come to the hospital early, as soon as their children get sick. Drugs and supplies – at least for the most common illnesses – should be available and free of charge. Nurses and doctors should be properly motivated and trained, and should have the medical tools and enabling environment they need to provide care.

In reality, however, the dedicated staff of the children’s hospital struggle to provide even a basic standard of care. The hospital has no x-ray, rudimentary laboratory facilities, and no back-up power supply. Doctors and nurses are forced to charge impoverished and severely ill patients fees for consultations, laboratory tests, and drugs and supplies in order both to provide the hospital with revenue to meet its running costs, and to supplement their own meager salaries. (A trained and experienced nurse makes less than $50 per month, not nearly enough to feed a family).

These fees mean that many parents wait far too long before they seek medical care for their children, and that too often they cannot afford urgently-needed medical interventions – medicine to treat malaria or pneumonia, a blood transfusion for a severely anemic child, fluids to treat dehydration in a baby with diarrhea. These delays cost the lives of hundreds if not thousands of children each year.

Prevention of childhood illness is absolutely essential, and UNICEF is right to invest in vaccines and the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

But even with the best prevention, many children will still get sick. If there is not a pediatric health system capable of providing effective, low-cost treatment for the most common illnesses, the country will continue to lose far too many young lives.

The Welbodi Partnership supports pediatric health care in Sierra Leone by partnering with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Ola During Children’s Hospital. To learn more and to find out how you can help, please visit our website.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Currently, more than one in four Sierra Leonean children die before their fifth birthday, mainly to preventable and treatable illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. The Welbodi Partnership aims to give these children a better chance.

We have been working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ola During Children's Hospital, and international partners to create the Sierra Leone Institute of Child Health (SLICH). In doing so we have built a unique combination of local presence and international partnerships to support improvements in child mortality and morbidity.

We'll be updating this blog with stories about the staff and patients at ODCH and news about events and fundraising.