In November, scientists and NGO leaders came together in New Orleans for the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene meeting which is held each year in the US. This year’s hot topic was unsurprisingly Ebola and its impact on health care in affected regions. What might be surprising though is that the keynote speaker, Bill Gates, whose organisation has donated billions to research, saw it not just as a tragedy, but also as an opportunity to focus on health and improve systems that were revealed to be so drastically in need. While listing the top priorities of global health he pointed out that “We really should be investing in the primary health care systems of all countries. In Africa in particular and in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, those primary health care systems are not very good.”
Welbodi is working hard in Sierra Leone to strengthen the weakened systems by helping people regain trust in the Ola During hospital, medical workers and other health systems in country, a crucial step in rebuilding. After so much fear from Ebola, it isn’t an easy task but dedication to helping the people of Sierra Leone and hard work are overcoming the challenge. The current funds the Welbodi Partnership has for the emergency are not only being used to support the holding unit at Ola During Children’s Hospital, but also to ensure that as children are leaving the hospital they aren’t leaving empty handed. For safety, contaminated clothing must be burned. These are being replaced along with a toy to comfort the children. Other projects include connecting the holding unit to the generator giving it uninterrupted power, providing WASH facilities for staff and setting up a surveillance office to allow vital records to be recorded and managed. These projects are a glimpse into the diverse needs of the situation.
The next few months will be pivotal for Sierra Leone. As cases of Ebola are beginning to go down in Liberia, both Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to see rises. The health care systems are still straining to keep up and while personal protective equipment and beds continue to be shipped in, its funder flexibility that’s needed most. This makes response times quicker and more efficient and with that comes a more rapid end to the crisis. Organisations like MSF are calling for the same flexibility.
Thanks to generous individuals and funders including Nyawa Funding Group, DIFID and Comic Relief, we've been able to support the emergency response as well as provide vital training to doctors and nurses. We are expanding this training, developing our community response and beginning a round of hospital investment that will address the most pressing needs of the staff, patients and hospital. These projects all fit into a long-term strategic plan to strengthen the healthcare system for years to come.
The Welbodi Partnership will continue to be proactively helping in Sierra Leone. We agree with Mr. Gates in that this crisis is an opportunity to renew our focus on the transformation of the lives of children and mothers in Sierra Leone, to continue to partner locally to create lasting change and to do it all to the highest standard possible.
This report was written by Welbodi's newest team member - Liz Hollenberg. Welcome!