- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
MSF in Sierra Leone, 2009
Field Staff: 393
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Sierra Leone »
Since civil war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone has been relatively stable politically. However, the economy has not yet recovered. Poverty is extreme, a severe lack of healthcare provision has resulted in the highest child mortality rate in the world, and malnutrition and malaria are widespread. In 2009, MSF carried out 355,000 consultations, which included treatment of 202,000 people with malaria and 6,000 with severe acute malnutrition.
In January, MSF carried out a vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak of yellow fever in the city of Bo and the surrounding area. In total, 178,500 people were vaccinated.
MSF is currently providing healthcare in a hospital near Bo. The hospital has 215 beds, a pediatric ward, a maternity ward, an intensive care unit and an intensive therapeutic feeding ward for severely malnourished children. MSF also supports the operation of five community health centers and 30 community health posts in the Bo and Pujehun districts, providing healthcare including curative consultations, basic obstetric care, and treatment for malnutrition and malaria. In addition, MSF supports a network of 140 community volunteers who have been taught how to diagnose and treat malaria in their own villages.
Over the last few years there has been a sharp increase in the number of patients in MSF programs, mainly due to a growing number of people coming from further afield in search of treatment. At the end of 2009, the hospital was overcrowded with the pediatric ward and the therapeutic feeding ward overstretched by up to 40 per cent. Such overcrowding means people have to share beds or sleep on the floor.
MSF’s experience in Sierra Leone has shown that moving to a system of free healthcare produces a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of patients seeking help for serious medical conditions. Currently, all patients are required to pay a fee when seeking treatment in the national health system. A doctor’s consultation can cost the equivalent of 25 days’ income. MSF has publicly called for the abolition of user fees and, in 2009, both the government and donors stated their support for it, starting with free care for children under five years old and pregnant women. However, it remains to be seen whether the authorities will receive the necessary funding and technical assistance to implement this policy.
MSF is an important provider of medical care countrywide, and is also the only major maternal and pediatric health provider outside Freetown. Each year, MSF provides primary healthcare to more than 300,000 patients.
In January of this year, two exhausted parents arrived at the Gondama Referral center carrying a cold and pale child who was having difficulty breathing. His body was covered in multiple abscesses. The parents had carried the boy for three days so that he could receive treatment at the MSF hospital. The three had slept out in the open with no food or money, and had been soaked by torrential monsoon downpours. In the four subsequent weeks the child received treatment for severe pneumonia, an extensive staphylococcal skin infection and severe malaria. He recovered fully and returned home to his village, some 70 miles away.
MSF has worked in Sierra Leone since 1986.