The majority of people in Sierra Leone are too poor to amass food and other supplies for more than even a few days. This makes it impossible to enforce a hard lockdown for 14 days, as required for the Coronavirus incubation period. The alternative would be either malnutrition or mass rebellion.
The Government’s attempt to control Covid-19 with travel restrictions and two three-day lockdowns disrupted most people’s lives. However, life goes on for farmers, who are planting small crops of sweet potatoes, Chinese yams, rice, and peanuts, or harvesting palm oil kernels and mangos. Food and produce markets are open and as crowded and busy as ever.
Two barefoot youths are pictured treading on freshly-harvested and boiled oil palm kernels, in a cement lined pit. This is the second step to render red palm oil. A staple ingredient in most Sierra Leonean dishes, palm oil is rich in vitamin A and also high in cholesterol. It is an often maligned but a true source of energy here, where other rich foods are either not available or not affordable to most people. As water is added, oil will rise to the surface, where it can be skimmed off to be boiled and further refined.
When Gibrillia Kamara was one year old, his mother took him to a government hospital, where his clubfeet could be corrected through casts. Unfortunately, the removal of the first set of casts disclosed a deep sore on his left foot.
Africa Surgery started a treatment of regular dressing changes, with antibiotic ointment. But the sore continued to fester, his pelvis began to swell and he developed active sinuses. On top of that, he tested positive for tuberculosis. We started him on a regimen of strong anti-TB medications. Six months after successful completion, Gibrillia still had a small, deep sore on his left ankle, often soiled from crawling on the ground.
Africa Surgery’s orthotics team designed and fabricated a pair of removable orthopedic boots that will begin to bend Gibrillia’s feet and ankles into a straighter alignment. In combination with the socks provided, this will help keep his feet clean while his sore continues to heal.
Gibrillia is the youngest of our seven patients with clubfeet. They will be corrected when our specialist from Germany will visit Sierra Leone again. He will also surgically straighten the clubfeet of older people who cannot have them corrected through serial casting. After Gibrillia starts to walk, being able to walk on the bottoms of his feet will decrease the risk of injuries and infection.
Currently Covid-19 is present in Freetown and in other towns of Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea. But without adequate testing it is still unclear how prevalent it is.
Travel restrictions bar movement between districts, making it impossible to travel to Freetown, over 100 miles away, or even to two up-country hospitals where we have five patients. We managed to get three emergency surgeries done by sending funds by phone. In one case, we even paid for blood from an anonymous donor.
At the doctor’s compound, Tom managed to make some positive progress with the help of Emanuel Bangura, whose mother is the household domestic. Together, they treated well water to make it safe for drinking.
Joseph Kamara, now 48, suffered from polio when he was a child. Last January, Africa Surgery presented him with a mobility cart (donated by Mobility World Wide) to allow him to easily go around his village and beyond.
Joseph, who has worked all of his life as a tailor, asked us for a sewing machine, to replace his worn out, 20 year old gear. On January 30, 2020, Africa Surgery surprised him with a sturdy Singer. He quickly mastered its use. Joseph had previously confided that he was unable to sleep at night, because he could not send his grandchildren to school and also care for his aging mother. Now, with the new machine, he is able to sleep again.
Last February, Africa Surgery delivered a portable water purification device to the head mistress of the Free Pentecostal Church Nursery School in Wellington, Sierra Leone. This was one of several machines donated by the Carmelite Sisters at Villa Walsh in Morris Township, New Jersey. This solar-powered device is easy to use, and the school staff quickly learned how to operate it. The device only requires a small amount of salt to treat several liters of water at a time.
We also delivered a device that allows each student to fill his/her cup with safe, clean water. This device is based on the same principle used by our gardeners when they bend a garden hose.
The risk of waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, dysentery, and rarely cholera, are a part of life for most people in Sierra Leone, especially during the rainy season. Children at this school are now guaranteed safe drinking water while at school. Africa Surgery will soon deliver the same devices and training to teachers of the primary, junior and secondary schools as well.
We are a unique organization in that we use 100% of of the funds donated here for the medical and surgical care of Sierra Leonean children and adult patients. No part of these funds go for administrative costs.
In Sierra Leone, simple surgeries cost slightly over $100. No donation is too small. Every dollar counts.
Africa Surgery, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit. Your donations are tax-deductible in the United States.