By Millicent Senava Mannah
An appendage of Orange Sierra Leone, the parent company, which is Orange Foundation, the philanthropic wing of the telecommunications company, in partnership with ICAP, has handed over a renovated Community Hospital to the Kroo Bay Community on the 24th of June 2022, geared toward safeguarding maternal mortality of female residents.
Pregnant women and lactating mothers at Kroo Bay community were in jubilant moods as Orange Foundation handed over the newly renovated health facility a feat accomplished in fulfilment of a pledge made last year by one of the leading telecoms service providers in the country.
Before it was renovated the health centre was in a dilapidated condition badly in need of repairs since it was constructed over 10 years ago. It was noted that the lack of confidentiality and comfort in the delivery room was a determining factor that shied away women from delivering in the health centre for a long time. It was indeed a factor that was responsible for maternal mortality.
As a result of the transformation, the women were so elated that they sang songs in appreciation of Orange Sierra Leone. Neatly painted, tiled and sanitized, the facility is indeed a standard one that is suitable to accommodate pregnant and lactating mothers. From what has been experienced the women residing within the community and its environs are willing to be visiting the centre for medical check-ups.
Several personalities within the country’s health sector, including the Director of Reproductive and Child Health, Dr Tom Sesay were in attendance.
In her address to the women, the Director for Orange Foundation, Jestina Betts, assured them that one of Orange Sierra Leone’s current missions is to improve maternal and child health in Kroo Bay Community.
She said recent statistics indicate that Sierra Leone is one the worst countries for a woman to give birth to and that Kroo Bay, the biggest and most densely populated slum community in Freetown remains the most vulnerable.
The community, she went on, became a focus for the Maternal Health Project which was launched in 2019 owing to ICAP (International Centre for Aids Care and Treatment Programmes) data on maternal deaths.
“Kroo Bay was the highest in vulnerability according to ICAP data. We will make a difference with our partnership with ICAP,” the Orange Sierra Leone Foundation Director assured.
Betts further informed the audience that Orange Sierra Leone started the health project in Kroo Bay by screening for malaria, HIV (Human Immuno Deficiency Virus) and other diseases.
According to her, it was a pilot project and the company had been pulling and pushing against all odds and plans for the extension of health services.
She called on the women to attend antenatal and postnatal clinics to safeguard their health and that of their babies. A multi-screening room, she assured, would be opened for proper treatment of women to whom she appealed to take ownership of the health facility.
An ICAP official, Emeka King said his agency came into the community based on a partnership with Orange Sierra Leone to cut down on the rolling statistics of maternal and child deaths. King also informed the audience that ICAP had worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in several health programmes in Sierra Leone and that his institution had enjoyed a good relationship with the Kroo Bay community since they intervened there.
“Our key priority is to improve maternal health in the community,” he intimated.
He said to realize that goal ICAP conducted a health sensitization targeting 2, 000 residents, identified 396 pregnant women, provided start-up kits to 50 pregnant women, and also offered blood pressure and HIV sugar screening services for safe delivery.
ICAP, he said did not stop there but ensured enhanced IPC (Infection Prevention and Control) standards in the health facility by making sure that there was proper disposal of used instruments and enhancing sanitation among others.
“With ICAP, death among children and pregnant women would be a thing of the past in the community,” he assured.
Speaking on behalf of MoHS, Dr Tom Sesay confirmed that Sierra Leone is still a challenging place for women to give birth. “Close to 2, 000 women die out of 100, 000 live births,” he pointed out. He, however, stated that the figure had been 717 deaths out of 100, 000 live births and that his Ministry is working hard to keep the figure at an appreciable level or even ensure zero occurrences.
Dr Sesay also pointed out bleeding as one of the major health complications women encounter during deliveries, and that 15 out of 100 women suffer from such a complication. The Reproductive Health Director singled out giving birth at home as the main cause of the complication.
Women, he said, were most times attended by traditional birth attendants who lack basic medical knowledge. He, therefore, encouraged women to give birth in the health facility and urged nurses to immediately refer complicated cases to senior medical officers so that lives could be saved. “Without the right intervention, life could be lost within one to two hours,” he said. Medicines, Dr Sesay went on, should be bought at the hospital where there is proper care and high storage system. Education also plays a big role in saving the lives of pregnant women and their children, he said.
The Demographic Health Survey conducted every five years shows that women who are educated have high chances of survival during delivery than those who are not educated, according to Dr Tom.
“It is painful for a woman to lose a child during delivery. Life could be lost in the process of looking for another child,” he lamented.
Dr Sesay has been working with Orange Sierra Leone since Corona Virus broke out in March 2020.
Section Chief of Kroo Bay Community, Pa Alimamy Kargbo 1 appreciated Orange Foundation and by extension Orange Sierra Leone for the good work and appealed for more support.
Joint cutting of the tape by Chief Executive Officer of Orange Sierra Leone, Sekou Amadu Bah, Dr Tom Sesay and Jestina Betts formed the highpoint of the occasion.