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MSF in Sierra Leone, 2010
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In April 2010, the government of Sierra Leone introduced a policy of free healthcare for children under five and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. But fewer than 200 doctors are employed by Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health to serve a population estimated at more than 5.8 million.
MSF continued its longstanding focus on maternal and child health in Sierra Leone throughout the year, and in the second half of 2010 assisted the Ministry of Health in the implementation of the new policy.
Maternal and child health
Activities in and around Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone, focused on maternal and child health, and treating malnutrition and malaria. MSF runs the Gondama Referral Centre, a 215-bed specialised emergency hospital just outside the city. The hospital has a paediatric ward, a maternity ward with an operating theatre, an intensive care unit and an intensive therapeutic feeding ward for severely malnourished children.
In the Bo and Pujehun districts, MSF also provides technical and material support to five community health centres. These centres offer general consultations, basic obstetric care, and treatment for malnutrition and malaria. MSF provides clinical, administrative and logistical training, drugs and other medical supplies and equipment, and access to its ambulance service to transfer patients to hospital.
Outside the capital of Freetown, MSF is one of the major maternal and paediatric healthcare providers in Sierra Leone. In late 2010, MSF decided to expand its work on maternal health. Teams supported and trained staff working in women’s wards, assisted in the management of critical paediatric cases, and carried out health promotion activities in the five MSF-supported centres in Bo and Pujehun.
Many patients were arriving at the Gondama Referral Centre in a critical condition, with very severe complications. MSF decided to improve its ambulance referral system for emergency cases, positioning ambulances at strategic locations, closer to the more distant clinics. MSF also engaged more actively with the national hospital in Bo and with other ambulance providers in order to increase capacity for the transportation of patients requiring emergency care from rural clinics to hospital.
Malaria diagnosis and treatment
Malaria is extremely common throughout Sierra Leone. The availability of diagnosis and treatment for malaria has improved, but slowness to recognise symptoms, the distance to health centres and inconsistent drug supplies can all prevent people from receiving timely treatment. MSF has trained a network of 140 volunteers to diagnose and treat malaria within their communities, bringing care closer to people living in the district of Bo.
In total, MSF treated more than 14,000 hospital patients in a critical condition and carried out more than 210,000 consultations in Sierra Leone in 2010.
MSF has worked in Sierra Leone since 1986.