Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Sweet Salone" gives free healthcare to sick kids

Sierra Leone is known as “Sweet Salone” for her beautiful beaches, lush tropical climate and rich culture. But this small West African country and her people also suffer serious problems, not least poverty and ill-health, made worse by the decade-long rebel war which ended in 2002.

However, there is a spirit of optimism in the country these days that you cannot ignore. In April 2010, the President celebrated Independence Day by making healthcare free for all children up to 5 years old and all pregnant and breastfeeding women. As well as abolishing hospital and health centre fees, the Government provided drugs and supplies and increased doctors and nurses salaries , so that they no longer need to charge their patients.

In a country where so many live in poverty, even small fees prevent people from taking their sick children to the doctor. All too often, children are brought to the hospital so late in their illness that it is difficult to save them. The first few weeks of the free healthcare policy were pretty crazy at the Children’s Hospital, with enormous crowds queuing outside – including many mothers who had perhaps never brought their children to see a doctor before. Things have calmed down somewhat but overall the hospital is certainly much more busy than it was before the fees were abolished!

It was a great privilege for the Welbodi Partnership to support the Government and the Children’s Hospital through these momentous changes and we are impressed by the way that everyone has risen to the challenge. Our focus has been to continue to improve the Triage and Emergency facilities, so that the sickest kids are identified quickly and treated appropriately. Our partners at Abertawe Bro Morgannwyg Trust in Wales have been sending out a training team twice a year to support this work.

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