Friday, March 07, 2008

Siera Leone's Poor Health

Adding to our earlier blog on the dire condition of the sierra Leone health reources , another report came to our attention .

In the 1970s records show tens of thousands of people used the health system every year. Sierra Leone was renowned for having some of the best surgical training facilities on the continent. Today, after the country’s devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002, the average life expectancy is 41. In 2007 Sierra Leone slipped down from second to last into last place in the UN Development Programme’s annual Human Development Index. The UN estimates there are just 65 trained medical doctors in the country to serve a population of 5 million who are mostly rural dwellers.

When people come to see Dr Dominic Weellah for anything more complicated than diarrhoea or malaria he often just gives them a placebo and sends them home.
“What else can I do?” he shrugged. “People just have to find their own way.”

Weellah’s clinic, in the remote centre of Sierra Leone, has no windows, just gaping holes in the walls and a rusty roof that has almost collapsed. There is no surgical equipment and a medical cabinet that is almost empty. He serves a community of over 10,000 people and the state-run clinic 17 km along unpaved roads is not much better.
“If you are really sick you either die or go to Freetown [more than 200 km west],” he said. “Even assuming patients can make it, facilities there are hardly brilliant.”

Indeed in Freetown the hospital facilities are shocking. Running water for an average of one hour every day .

“The most basic tools we need to do our work are not there,” said Sister Hannah Mansaray, a nurse and midwife. “We can’t even measure blood pressure.” When any surgery is performed, patients need to provide their own gauze, bandages and sterilising equipment, she said .
The hospital the Princess Christian does not have a proper blood bank. A small fridge only contained blood type O+.
“If people need a different blood they will have to come with someone who can provide it,”

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