Few of the many nations that struggle from year to year in the relative obscurity of the undeveloped world ever experience the sudden glare of international recognition and white knuckle scrutiny that the quiet Republic of Sierra Leone has since the recent Ebola outbreak in 2014. This relatively small West African nation (with a population of about 7 million people) has as its Official Language English, but for all practical purposes, relies on the Krio language which is a tongue that has unified the linguistic needs of the 16 ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. As a predominately Muslim country (73%) with a significant Christian minority, Sierra Leone is distinguished by generally tolerant and peaceful relations between the two communities.
As I write this blog post, Abandoned Children’s Fund is engaged in a search for the means to ship an ocean freighter to Freetown, Sierra Leone, loaded with (among other things) a 20 foot container full of high quality, desperately needed donated medicines, destined for the battered health care system in Sierra Leone.
Over the last several years Abandoned Children’s Fund has been actively involved in supplying shipping containers of high quality donated Pharmaceuticals to be distributed to the hospitals and clinics in other West African nations, so we are not Johnny-come-lately’s to the health care community of this highly challenged region. Where conditions were once best described as Abysmal in comparison with what one would expect from any health care delivery system in the west, today the Ebola outbreak has caused a near complete collapse of the system as doctors and nurses have abandoned the hospitals in an expression of self-preservation.
Obviously, while any meaningful commentary on the larger question of the 2014 Ebola outbreak is beyond the scope if this blog, it is important to not ignore the profound implications this situation has created for the already terribly poor and deteriorated health care community that was in grave need of reinforcement before the first reports of Ebola infection began filtering down to the world media in January 2014. Long before the emergence of Ebola, Sierra Leone has suffered from epidemic outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Cholera while Lassa Fever, and Meningitis are endemic to Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a poor country. Decades of post-colonial strife, government corruption and civil war reduced this country to deep impoverishment until a forced interjection from the United Nations and Great Britain established enough stability to found a relatively stable representative government in the early 1990’s. While there has been a history of rich mineral and mining deposits in Sierra Leone, this natural resource has been the source of grievous exploitation and further impoverishment. Actually, while high unemployment is a fact of life in West Africa, agriculture still represents the primary vocation of those who are employed.
Since the American military force recently sent to Liberia has been put forward as a first step in hopefully containing the outbreak in West Africa, some of the panic has been alleviated. This decision was predicated on the long term historic relationship between the US and Liberia. By comparison, Sierra Leone has historically had a relationship with Great Britain but as yet has received less assistance rebuilding their organized medical defense against this lethal virus. At this hour there are a number of significant international organizations including the World Health Organization , the United Nations and others preparing Sierra Leone to contain and suppress this awful virus before it develops into a pandemic.
The Abandoned Children’s board of directors has asked our Gift-in-Kind donation team to proceed as soon as a successful distribution of donated pharmaceuticals is practical (soon after the new year) to coordinate with our project partner in Sierra Leone for a shipment. Our partner has built a reliable network of health care entities including hospitals and clinics, and will assure our ability to distribute a container of donated medicines legally without any concern about creating a black market. As Abandoned Children’s Fund readies ourselves to ship our first container of medicines (which our donors have made possible for immediate, direct delivery into the terribly shaken Sierra Leone health care system) to Freetown, it appears it will be perfectly timed to have a profound impact on helping to strengthen community health, let us add our prayers for the successful results we desire.