The Child Rescue Centre has expanded its vision to serve children and families who live in the villages of Pujehun and Manguama.
Last month, children from these two villages were enrolled in the Child Support Program so they can begin receiving support for their education. Both underdeveloped and politically marginalized, these small villages suffer from extreme poverty, lack of services and inaccessibility.
Manguama is one of the villages served by Mercy Hospital outreach.
CRC Director Mohamed Nabieu spoke to the new vision to expand to the villages. “We are not only to focus on our comfortable zones, but if we want to make meaningful impact, we have to be ready to reach out to the unreached, speak out for the voiceless and help the underprivileged,” he said.
Over several days in September the CRC team visited the newly established operational areas to distribute school supplies. “The children are all set and ready for the new school year,” CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu reported. The CRC staff counseled the parents to support their children’s education by encouraging them to study and take good care of their school supplies.
If you would like to sponsor one of the children from the new village initiative, please click on the link below.
Theresa Pillar is a 35-year-old blind woman who came to Mercy because she was having difficulty breastfeeding. She and her husband, who is also blind, were so happy to have a baby together, but were distressed when breastfeeding became difficult and painful for the mother. They are extremely poor and cannot afford to provide formula for their baby. Mercy provided the mother with medication to relieve her symptoms and educated her on proper breastfeeding methods, at no cost to the family. Now, the baby is able to breastfeed properly.
“I am feeling so overwhelmed about all that has been done for me at Mercy," Theresa says. "We are very pleased by the help we got from Mercy.”
Ten-month-old Isata Sandy, a twin, was referred to Mercy Hospital by the outreach team for an acute respiratory infection. Isata and her twin sister had recently graduated from the nutrition program when they reached a healthy weight. After treatment at the hospital, Isata made a full recovery.
Her mother, Isata Sandy, expressed her thanks for Mercy's care of her baby. “I am very grateful for Mercy Hospital for treating my child. Mercy Hospital nurses are very nice and treated us very well.”
Mohamed Khadar and Ismael Vandy, members of Mercy Hospital's outreach team, were on a community mapping exercise to understand the needs in some of the villages reached by Mercy when they intervened to save the life of a woman who had just given birth to a stillborn baby.
The woman had given birth in her village and was walking the four miles to Kassama to seek medical treatment at the Maternal Child Health Post (MCHP). As she was walking, the woman began hemorrhaging and sought shelter in a hut by the side of the road. When Mohamed and Ismael encountered her, she was lying in a pool of blood and quickly losing consciousness. Mohamed immediately began treatment to stop the uterine bleeding and sent for help, which certainly saved the woman's life.
This story is far from typical for women giving birth in villages without MCHPs. The Sierra Leone government mandates that each village should be within four miles of a MCHP where women can seek treatment for themselves and their babies; but four miles is nearly an impossible distance to walk for a woman who has just given birth, let alone a woman who has had a complicated birth.
Thanks to Mohamed and Ismael's intervention, this woman survived. Clearly, there is a desperate need for more MCHPs in the villages served by Mercy's outreach teams.
Mercy Hospital's HIV/AIDS team received high praise from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation for their impressive results with clients identified with HIV/AIDS.
"The National Secretariat of HIV/AIDS made a call lavishing praises on the Mercy Hospital HIV/AIDS Unit for their continuing follow-up with clients identified with the virus," Mercy Hospital Administrator Jinnah Lahai reported. "Out of 70 samples sent for viral load case definition, 35 have been reported 'target not-detected.' Meaning, these clients can no longer transfer the virus as long as they continue their treatment. Special bravo to Mercy Hospital's HIV/AIDS Counselor Mr. Mohamed Koroma and his team for their continuing follow-up on these clients," he added.
When an HIV/AIDS patient achieves an undetectable viral load, it means that the level of HIV in the blood is below the threshold needed for detection, and indicates that the antiretroviral treatment is working. It does not mean the patient is cured, but it should mean that they are no longer infectious and will not transfer the virus to their sexual partner, as long as they continue treatment.
HIV/AIDS is a life-long disease and cannot be cured. However, it is possible to delay the onset of AIDS, and many HIV positive people are now able to live a healthy and normal lifespan by adhering to the treatment regimen. If taken daily, AZT, the most common treatment, prevents HIV from progressing to AIDS (Acquired Immune Definiciency Syndrome), and brings the viral load down and "suppresses" it so that it is undetectable. The client is still HIV-positive (infected with the human immunodeficiency virus) but they are extremely unlikely to infect other people with HIV. This is especially good news for pregnant women and couples that are called "discordant" (one is HIV-positive and one is negative).
"It's wonderful Mercy is having these results," reported Medical Programs Field Director Specialist Kim Nabieu. "It means that the HIV unit is really good at following up with its clients and encouraging them to take their treatment. This is not an easy task, as many people live in denial and do not like to accept that they are positive."
Mercy Hospital HIV Counselor Mohamed Koroma, AHF representative Rosaline, and team conduct HIV/AIDS testing on village outreach. Mohamed's team received high praise from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health for their good results with clients.
Child: Mary, 14 months
Mother: Musu, a teacher
"My child was very sick when I brought her for treatment to the outreach team for the first time. She was having cold, severe fever and loss of appetite for three days. My child was treated free of cost and she was enrolled in the Nutrition program and supplied the pikin mix for the first time. Now she has received four packets before discharged from the program."
Aminata, 15 months
Mother: Mamie, a housewife
"My child was very sick and had loss weight in the previous months and we heard of the Mercy outreach team visiting our community last month and they treated my child and enrolled her in the nutrition program. The child`s health is very good and now my child is due for discharge because she is very healthy now with no complains of fever nor headache. I am very thankful for the free medications given to our children because the cost of drugs is expensive so therefore we appreciate the effort of both Mercy Hospital outreach team and partners that fund this program for us and our children."
Tenneh, 8 months
Mother: Isata, a farmer
"My child has taken the pikin mix supply (Benemix) three times and her body structure has increased as compared to the first months when the enrolled her in the nutrition program. She is very strong and her weight has also increased. When she is ill we get free treatment form the Mercy Hospital outreach team free of cost and this free treatment is really helping our children and us in this communities. I want to thank the Mercy Hospital outreach team and the partners that sponsors the various programs."
Osman, 16 months
Mother: Aminata, a housewife
"My child has received six packets of pikin mix since I was enrolled in the program. Now his weight is high and he is very strong and healthy. The outreach team and the Mercy Hospital have been very helpful in supplying the pikin mix and giving me health talks on personal hygiene and method of preparing the pikin mix for consumption by my child. We are very grateful for the free services rendered to us every month in our community."
Staff member donates blood to safe a life
Alice, age 6, was suffering from severe anemia caused by malaria and as a result needed a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, no relative was a match and the family could not afford to pay for a donor. Typically in Sierra Leone blood is donated by the family.
Mercy’s Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar, immediately offered to step in and donate blood to save Alice's life. “Really, I am very happy to donate," Mohamed says. "It is all about saving a life. Some people are afraid to donate blood but I know it is so important. It makes me glad to see her well again.” Alice is much improved and reunited with her family.
Mercy Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar donated blood to save the life of a young malaria patient.
Toddler treated for malnutrition and complications
Eustacia, nearly 18 months old, could easily pass for less than a year old. She came into Mercy suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea, and was so weak she couldn't walk.
Mercy diagnosed Eustacia with chronic malnutrition and enrolled her in the nutrition program. Hopefully she will soon achieve normal weight, thanks to Mercy's intervention. Malnutrition is common among poor babies and toddlers in Sierra Leone, and is a contributing factor in the high under-five mortality rate. One of Mercy's prime missions is to address chronic malnutrition and save babies' lives.
Eustacia would have died from malnutrition without Mercy's intervention.
Early intervention rescues toddler from deadly malaria and typhoid
Mohamed, aged 20 months, was brought into Mercy by his 18 year old mother, Mariatu. Mohamed was so weak he could not lift his head. The nurses described him as “completely helpless.” He was suffering from malaria and typhoid, debilitating diseases for an adult, but deadly for a young baby. The Mercy staff administered a blood transfusion to treat Mohamed's anemia, and medications to combat the typhoid, fever and constipation, and the listless baby quickly began to regain his strength.
All of these diseases, while serious, are curable when medical care is sought early. His mother brought him to Mercy because she had often encountered the Mercy staff when they came to her village on outreach and trusted them. Mariatu praised the Mercy staff for their compassionate care of her baby. “I just thank God. Yesterday I was seriously crying. I actually thought he was going to die. He is my only child. I am so happy he is well now!"
Mohamed's mother is so grateful that Mercy saved her son's life. "I actually thought he was going to die!"
Giving birth at the hospital saved this mother's baby
Princess had already given birth to two children in a peripheral health unit (PHU), small clinics in rural villages staffed by midwives and nurses. Sometimes PHUs have a Community Health Officer (CHO), but never a doctor.
Although Princess' other pregnancies were normal, her sister-in-law encouraged her to give birth to her third child at Mercy Hospital, a decision that would ultimately save the baby’s life. Princess’ baby was born underweight and not breathing, probably because her mother had an undiagnosed sexually transmitted infection, which can cause birth complications, low birth weight, or even stillbirth. The mother had attended Mercy’s antenatal care program, but out of embarrassment had not told the maternity staff about the STI symptoms.
Mercy’s maternity staff immediately went into action, spending almost 30 minutes resuscitating the baby, who finally began to breathe, although she was still not crying. Due to the STI, the baby had inhaled a large amount of mucus in the womb. It was a tense couple of hours as the treatment took effect. At last, the baby slowly gained coloring and tentatively start to cry.
The staff breathed a collective sigh of relief when it became clear that the baby would live. Princess was extremely relieved. “I am really happy and appreciate for what Mercy did for me and my baby. I know if I had gone to the PHU the baby would not have survived. I am so grateful for what Mercy did for us.”
The nurses also confirmed that the PHU would not have been able to manage the case, and the baby surely would have died.
Princess's baby most likely survived because she gave birth at Mercy Hospital, instead of in the village.
Last month, the Mercy village outreach team encountered nine-month-old Mohamed Fofanah, desperately ill and deydrated. The team brought the child back to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe malaria and anemia. Mohamed received anti-malarial medicine and a blood transfusion, which could never have been done in the village. Without Mercy’s intervention, Mohamed would almost certainly have died.
Malaria--which Doctors Without Borders calls "the other epidemic"--is one of the greatest causes of under-five mortality in Sierra Leone, especially deadly when a child's immune system is already compromised by malnutrition or parasitic infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of malaria in the world. Children are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death from malaria, which contributes to an estimated twenty percent of child mortality.
Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces transmission of the disease and prevents deaths. In 2017 Mercy Hospital treated more than 8,000 people for malaria infection, both at the hospital and through village outreach, saving the lives of children and adults.
In pursuit of the mission to reduce maternal and infant mortality, Mercy Hospital encourages women to give birth at the hospital, which greatly improves the outcome for mothers and babies. Last week these beautiful identical twins were delivered at Mercy. Mother and babies are doing well!
Fatorma, a three-month old baby, had become severely dehydrated from a pneumonia infection, and was admitted to the hospital as a destitute because his parents had no means to pay for treatment. After three days of treatment and monitoring, little Fatorma was discharged and is doing well.
On a recent outreach to Tikonko village, the Mercy medical team saw an extremely sick baby named Adama, who was suffering from severe diahrrea and vomiting. The child was restless, irritable and disoriented. The team brought her back to the hospital for treatment, accompanied by her mother Hawa. At the hospital, Adama was diagnosed with severe malaria.
On admission, Dr. Sao Amara prescribed medication, which was provided free of cost. The nurses administered the drugs and Adama was kept under observation in the hospital until the vomiting and diarrhea stopped. Hawa stayed with her baby for two days until she was alert, oriented and stable. Dr. Amara reported that "the mother is very happy for her child's health and the child has been discharged." There is no doubt that the outreach team saved little Adama's life.
Tikonko village is one of the places served by Mercy Hospital's outreach team.
Baby Betty was rescued from severe malnutrition by the Mercy outreach staff, and her story was shared in the April 2017 newsletter. A year later, and Betty is out of danger, a healthy and beautiful little toddler. Last month was Betty’s 12th visit to the nutrition program (her mother has been one of the most consistent participants). It was also the first time she was in the “green” range of the MUAC*, and she may be eligible to graduate from the program this month.
Last year we also shared stories about Baby Mamie (original story here and update here) a severely malnourished infant first encountered by the Mercy outreach team in Tikonko village. A year later, and Mamie has made significant improvement; although still small, she is a healthy, active toddler. Mamie is on her 6th visit to the nutritional clinic, and she is “yellow” now, moving towards green.
*Interpretation of Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) indicators
In early May, staff of the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital participated in a training held by OneVillage Partners to learn community mapping and other concepts for effective community development. The skills learned in the training will help the CRC and Mercy to connect with the community, religious, and government leaders, as well as members of the community to make it easier to identify and support the most vulnerable members of the community.
OVP is a Sierra Leone-based organization that helps rural communities train, empower, and mobilize leaders, so that they can address their community’s most pressing, self-identified problems. By including the community in the process of identifying problems and developing solutions, OVP empowers people to solve their own problems and strengthens community investment in solutions.
OVP trainers Musa Gangha and Muje Josephine Lansana taught the CRC staff critical communication skills including focus group facilitation, appreciative inquiry (how to interview without leading the subject), and the Mercy Staff power-wise ranking (how villages can vote for their own priorities), and social and resource mapping. OVP trainers also coached both staff in identifying stakeholders, to ensure good representation in data collection.
The staff learned skills specific to developing and including voices which are often more difficult to hear, especially those of women and children.
“We found the OVP training very important as it directly relates to our present job,” observed Child Support Program assistant coordinator Victor Kanu. “The training has changed my perception about community development. In any community work I am doing, I will involve community people for better participation.
Ismael Vandi, Mercy Hospital statistician, found the training very worthwhile. "I really learned so many things I did not know before. The mapping for example, I never knew there were so many types of mapping. It was really interesting to learn about the power wise ranking method. It really helps make the decision making process easier and clear. Bringing the community people on board and making them really involved means that it will be easier to understand the community. Participation by community members is key. They know best what they want and need in their community. We need to ask them and involve them in any development project so they benefit and understand it."
OVP’s central concept is the “sharpening stone” (see video below). When a person tries to farm with a dull machete, he cannot do the work well, he needs a sharpening stone to make the machete effective. The “sharpening stone” of community empowerment is the teamwork involved in community mapping.
Scenes from Mercy Hospital's training session with OneVillage Partners.
Below, the Child Rescue Centre training.