Sierra Leone has long struggled with some of the world’s worst health outcomes—including a maternal mortality epidemic in which a woman’s lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 17. Extreme poverty prevents most families from accessing health care. And often the care they need isn’t available, given the country’s severe shortage of trained clinicians, health infrastructure, and medical supplies.
West Africa’s historic Ebola outbreak intensified all of these problems, and further eroded Sierra Leone’s already weak health system. So when the government requested PIH’s help to end the outbreak, we agreed—and committed to staying long past Ebola, to build and strengthen a health system founded on every Sierra Leonean’s right to health.
Today, in partnership with the government, PIH supports six health facilities across three districts in an effort to build a health system that protects every Sierra Leonean’s right to health, especially those most vulnerable to sickness and injustice.
50% reduction in still birth rate at Koidu Government Hospital.
99.9% monthly average rate of HIV patients returning for ongoing care.
52% increase in mothers served at PIH-supported facilities.
Transforming Health in Kono District
In Kono District, a rural eastern region of 500,00 people, famous for its diamond mines and as the epicenter of Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, PIH is investing in every level of the health system. We operate Wellbody Clinic; support Koidu Government Hospital (KGH), Kono’s only hospital; and are supporting smaller public primary health clinics throughout the district.
Our ongoing investments alongside the government in clinical training, infrastructure, and supply chain have equipped clinicians, pharmacists, and lab techs with what they need to deliver lifesaving care. Today, Wellbody and KGH are widely celebrated as the best health facilities in the country.
In the Community
PIH employs a network of community health workers (CHWs) under the Ministry of Health & Sanitation, who link patients to health facilities and social support. CHWs maintain close relationships with patients and their families, making regular home visits during which they check on patients’ health and well-being, refer and accompany them to care, and connect them with social support from PIH, such as food packages, housing repairs, transportation, and educational opportunities like adult literacy courses.
The success of our CHW program has been scaled in the years since we first piloted it in Sierra Leone, as the government adapted our model nationally for HIV and TB care.
In Health Facilities
Wellbody Clinic is our model primary health clinic, providing expert care—from vaccinations, to malnutrition care, to HIV treatment and counseling—to families across Kono.
The clinic is setting new standards for health care—not just in Kono, but nationally. Wellbody has seen no maternal deaths in four years and counting, thanks to mentorship of maternity staff and newly built maternal waiting homes—facilities where women with high-risk pregnancies can stay for 24-hour monitoring ahead of their due dates.
And a newly-implemented electronic medical record system—the first in the country—ensures clinicians quick access to comprehensive, up-to-date medical histories, in order to better inform patient care.
At Koidu Government Hospital—the only secondary care facility in Kono—we’ve introduced resources as basic as 24-hour electricity and running water, to as advanced as oxygen production and a functioning blood bank.
We employ the district’s only specialized OB/GYN, pediatrician, and psychiatrist. We’ve built an emergency room and special care baby unit, established chronic disease care, and made lifesaving C-sections and other surgeries available 24 hours a day.
And we maintain a steady flow of vital medical supplies and medications to ensure quality care for any number of health issues—from diabetes, to tuberculosis, to obstructed labor.
Specialized Support in Freetown
Capital city Freetown is home to the country’s only specialized, dedicated hospitals for tuberculosis and mental health care: Lakka Government Hospital and Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital. In partnership with the government, we’re making investments in these facilities that are setting new precedents for what’s possible in mental health care and TB care, both in Sierra Leone and around the world.
At Lakka, we’ve worked with the National TB Program to introduce never-before-available care for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, are renovating hospital infrastructure to make it more comfortable for inpatients, have introduced new clinical capacities like a critical care unit, and provide social support, like food packages and transportation stipends, to ensure that patients can adhere to treatment and attend their appointments.
Today, the hospital is seeing among the world’s highest cure rates for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
At Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital, our supply chain has introduced life-changing medications for patients with severe mental health conditions, while extensive building renovations mean patients now stay in a comfortable facility with never-before-available electricity and plumbing.
The hospital— the oldest psychiatric hospital in sub-Saharan Africa, opened in 1820—used to be so under resourced that clinicians had no choice but to rely on chains to confine patients to their beds for the sake of safety. Now, with stocked pharmacy shelves, dignified infrastructure, and added clinical expertise, chains are no longer used—or even necessary.
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