Sierra LeoneSierra Leone has been trying to heal multiple wounds over the past few decades. The civil war from 1991-2002 left the nation with an especially deep cut. Many people fled their rural communities for growing urban areas; cities like Freetown quickly became overcrowded, leading to the appearance of slums almost overnight. According to the World Health Organization’s research, urban overpopulation, lack of sanitation and inadequate health services are key reasons as to why disease and death are so prominent in these locations. This holds especially true for mothers as well as for children under five. Humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone is vital in order to improve the lives of the country’s citizens.

Luckily, nongovernmental organizations like Concern Worldwide have implemented aid programs in Sierra Leone. From October 2011 to June 2017, Concern Worldwide implemented a USAID- and Irish Aid-funded Child Survival Project (CSP), also known as “Al Pikin fo Liv” (Life for Children). This program was designed to reduce maternal, infant and child deaths through the building of key foundations at 10 urban sites in the Freetown Western Urban Area District.

The main concern for completing the program was how to put into operation the national Community Health Worker Policy (CHWP). USAID and Concern Worldwide did this by working with individual health facilities to improve the quality of healthcare worker training, apply clinical protocols and providing on-the-job supervision and mentorship. Essentially, the CSP aimed to increase the number of healthcare workers per facility and improve the quality of care that is provided.

This might seem like it doesn’t have a solid correlation to solving maternal, infant, and child mortality. However, while it might be a simpler task to prevent death and offer treatment to an individual, it’s another matter to treat disease and prevent future deaths on a national level. The CSP and the implementation of the CHWP are strategies that are meant to carry on into the future.

It will take a number of years in order to determine the overall success of the humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone on maternal, infant and child health. But, in interviews completed after the program’s end date, many healthcare workers believed they were given the right training and resources in order to continue running efficient facilities and to improve care for patients. The community in general also felt more connected, because households were given increased knowledge about the importance of treatment and the health facilities were partnered with the Freetown City Council, Health Management Committees and Ward Development Committees at each project site.

This sense of unity and a more focused understanding of community-based health in urban settings is a powerful tool to have. It is important that humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone continues to be funded and implemented on the ground, in order to ensure an improved way of life and better futures for all citizens.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr