Saving Children in Sierra Leone
Mustapha Bawoh, a member of the International Rescue Committee’s child survival program, is on hand to greet the women, examine the children, and make sure the vaccinations are properly administered. Bawoh supervises local health workers and makes sure that they give quality care to pregnant women, new mothers and young children. His work is critical because Sierra Leone has some of the highest maternal and child death rates in the world.
“Many mothers and children in Kono do not have access to good health care,” Bawoh said. “Thanks to the IRC, many more women and children are receiving the vaccinations and medicine they need.”
The goal of IRC’s child survival program is to save lives and improve the health of young children in Kono District, one of the areas hit hardest by Sierra Leone’s ten-year long civil war which ended in 2002. In addition to providing vaccinations, the program aims to give children access to high-quality, life-saving treatment for diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, some of the primary killers of children in Sierra Leone.
The child survival program, which is the first of its kind in the country, depends on the participation of community members. The IRC works through local volunteers known as community-based distributors who identify vulnerable and ill children and provide treatment in the children’s homes. Before, many mothers had to walk miles to a local health center to get treatment for their children. Now children receive free treatment in their own villages.
“Since I started working as a volunteer, there is less sickness in my community,” said Sia Kanessie, a community-based distributor from the village of Kodama. “I like what I do because I help children get better. I encourage mothers to take their infants to the clinic and to breast feed them. I also work at night, making sure mothers use bed nets to prevent the children from getting malaria.”
Bawoh and his colleagues have placed trained volunteers in 272 villages throughout Kono District. In addition to providing treatment, they monitor the children’s condition, refer them to local health clinics and follow up with the mothers by encouraging them to attend the monthly outreach sessions. The program has been so successful at reducing childhood mortality that the government has decided to expand the program nationwide.How to Help
Give children in Sierra Leone a fighting chance at life by supporting the IRC's effective child survival program. Your gift will be tripled, allowing IRC health workers to save thousands of lives in communities across Sierra Leone.
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