Remembering Hassan Bunduka

PIH Mourns Loss of Staff in Sierra Leone Fire Explosion

Posted on Nov 12, 2021

Hassan Bunduka
Hassan Bunduka was a longtime member of PIH Sierra Leone's fleet team. Photo by Maya Brownstein / PIH.

Partners In Health remembers Hassan Bunduka, who tragically died on November 7 from injuries sustained in the November 5 fuel tanker explosion and fire in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Hassan was a longtime member of PIH Sierra Leone’s fleet team, responsible for coordinating transportation for staff, patients, and medical supplies.

As PIH Sierra Leone staff work to respond to the urgent medical and psychosocial needs of the hundreds of people affected by this accident, they also grieve the loss of their beloved colleague and friend.

On behalf of all the PIHers who knew and love Hassan, Dr. Bailor Barrie, executive director of PIH Sierra Leone; Dr. Sheila Davis, chief executive officer of PIH; and Jon Lascher, former executive director of PIH Sierra Leone, provide this reflection.

It is with great sadness that we share the news of Hassan Bunduka’s tragic, untimely passing.

In 2014, when PIH began its work in Sierra Leone at the height of West Africa’s historic Ebola outbreak, Hassan was the second member of our staff, hired as a driver in Port Loko District, the epidemic’s hotspot. Transporting our staff around Port Loko, Hassan was willing to shoulder incredible personal risk, all in support of patients and our growing organization. When there was a difficult mission, Hassan never shied away, and his commitment never wavered even through the most harrowing of days. In fact, Hassan shared in a recent staff highlight that he looks back on these times with fondness. “My favorite memory with PIH is being part of the achievements made in Port Loko,” he said. “Seeing Ebola survivors discharged from our treatment centers and providing them a startup package to go back home and reintegrate with their families and communities gave me a joy money can’t buy.”

With his unparalleled optimism and determination, it was an easy decision to promote Hassan to fleet manager in Port Loko. After the end of the Ebola epidemic, Hassan brought these same gifts to his work as our fleet manager in Freetown, ensuring every day that staff, patients, and supplies safely got where they needed to go. His work often went unseen, but without a doubt was the glue holding together PIH Sierra Leone’s operations and our mission to make health care a human right.

Of course we are devastated as an organization to lose Hassan’s many talents that helped make our lifesaving work possible. But more so, we are devastated to lose Hassan as a colleague and friend. Hassan was funny, gentle, smart, and fiercely loyal, an engaging conversationalist with a knack for making people feel included. Some of our favorite memories are from his wedding party, where he was surrounded by so many people who loved him, including everyone at PIH Sierra Leone who was so excited to celebrate with him.

Hassan was always there for us when we needed him—so we will be there for his wife, son, and two daughters, supporting them during this terrible time and beyond.

Hassan’s passing is a stark reminder that life is fragile. And it further grounds us in the importance of our work to improve health care in Sierra Leone, where the specialty medical services needed by the victims of this horrific accident are in short supply, if they exist at all.

No one was a bigger believer in the equity we must continue to fight for, in health care and beyond, than Hassan. Again in a recent staff highlight, Hassan shared what social justice meant to him: that “every human is important, and that we should see ourselves as one and equal.”

Beautiful words from an amazing son, brother, husband, friend, colleague, and father, who we miss so much and will never forget.

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