I recently returned from Sierra Leone, a country full of vibrant people and a beautiful landscape. Sierra Leone was named by the Portuguese, because its vista looks like a lion.
Sadly though, Sierra Leone has been plagued by a single industry mining economy, civil war and a recent Ebola epidemic, a disease that took a huge toll on the health profession, citizenship and the country’s economic development. Today, Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world and I have been told that since the Ebola epidemic, the country of six million people currently has less than 100 doctors and no neonatal specialists.
But there is HOPE. Project HOPE began working in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic with deliveries of medicines, needed supplies and even several self-contained, relocatable clinics. Thankfully, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free a year ago. Since then, our work has progressed to supporting local health care workers eager for training, including learning simple but lifesaving techniques, to help save the lives of babies and mothers.
One of those techniques is Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). In a country where hospitals do not have reliable electricity, incubators for premature babies and oxygenation equipment is mostly non-existent, just the simple technique of mothers providing consistent skin-to-skin contact with their newborns, especially preterm babies, can save lives.
Project HOPE volunteers are teaching KMC to medical teams in a few hospitals in Sierra Leone. The intimate constant contact with their mothers allows babies to sleep better, conserve more energy, keep their body temperatures regulated and also helps with growth.
But there is so much more to do. I witnessed with my own eyes, that training is not enough. In Sierra Leone medical facilities, new mothers and babies are often separated by long distances within the hospital setting itself. In one particular hospital I visited, babies were kept .2 miles from their mothers. A woman, who just gave birth, needed to walk almost a quarter of a mile to feed and warm her baby. Can you imagine? And even when a mother was able to retrieve her baby, the mother came back to a room with a non-reclining bed, sometimes sharing that bed with another mother, and was forced to sit straight up in the bed to kangaroo her infant. Project HOPE is working to establish properly equipped designated KMC rooms in these facilities that will allow mothers and babies to be together in safe and comfortable surroundings.
We need your help. We want to provide proper beds, help hospitals upgrade their facilities so mothers and babies are closer together, and provide additional essential equipment and supplies to support the dedicated, but few medical teams in Sierra Leone with lifesaving training.
By supporting the #SaveNewbornsNow campaign you can provide lifesaving care to mothers and newborns in Sierra Leone and other places around the world, where moms and infants need your help.
The need is real, and it is huge, but you can make a difference.
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