Progress in 2019

Here’s the annual statement from our Chair, Shona Lockyer, as presented at the AGM in January.

In recent years, we have been less visible in Kambia, this is partly due to the suspension of activities due to Ebola, and although Sierra Leone was officially declared Ebola free in 2016, we have not re-established ourselves in Kambia to the extent we were pre-Ebola. There have been a number of factors contributing to this – the presence of the Ebola vaccine trials, resulting in a supply of qualified personnel as well as investment into the local infrastructure, on a scale far beyond anything we could achieve, plus our link to GHNFSFT is not as strong as it once was, and short-term volunteering is no longer popular or encouraged as a development model.

We have therefore been concentrating on projects we can deliver that require less input in terms of manpower, such as our ongoing scholarship programme and our MCHA mentoring programme. With the regular changes in senior management in Kambia however, we will continue to undertake periodic reviews with the DHMT to make sure we are still heading in the right direction.

To this end, In April 2019, Richard and David visited Kambia on behalf of the trustees to meet the new District Medical Officer (DMO), Mariama Murray – the first female DMO in Kambia – and to discuss their priorities and how best we can help.

David and Richard were also able to hand over a sample delivery kit and Blood Pressure machine, equipment that had been requested by the DHMT (District Health Management Team) which we were able to fund via the Johnson & Johnson grant we received back in February 2018, which included a provision for medical equipment.

We were able to supply delivery kits for the hospital and for each of the Peripheral Health Units (PHUs). In total we shipped 200 delivery kits and 115 BP monitors which have all safely arrived in Kambia and were handed over to the DHMT at a ceremony involving the Kambia District Council on 27th November 2019.

This equipment will be delivered to each PHU, along with training on the use of the BP machines, as part of a further round of MCHA mentoring which we have agreed to undertake and are finalising costs for with a view to implementing as soon as possible.

Dr. Murray asked if we could help with refurbishment costs for some of the existing PHUs and we requested further information; we have subsequently received estimates for rebuilding the PHU in Rokai which is in most urgent need. However, the estimates supplied to date have been substantially more than we had anticipated spending, so we are exploring what other options might be workable or whether we should just concentrate on investing in people, via training, rather than capital infrastructure projects.

Dr. Murray was keen that we continue with our scholarship programme and requested funds for two CHOs to attend the surgical skills training programme, carried out at Masanga Hospital, which we have agreed to support and await the names of candidates from the DHMT.

We have our two community midwives, Kadi and Mariatu, in training still; their training is due to be completed at the end of this year, 2020, and we hope to have started two more new candidates – we are again awaiting nominations from the DHMT.

We have been looking at whether, with better internet connectivity, we could deliver training ‘virtually’ using one or two specialist trainers in the UK to deliver training to a few key individuals in Kambia. To this end we have been exploring internet options in Kambia and have been advised that there is a fibre optic cable passing through Kambia, with a Sierra Leone Government team in charge of cable connection. Installation costs are expensive – around £11 – 12,000. Reportedly this is the one-off cost with no need for monthly subscriptions and we have been advised that it is fast and reliable, however, we would need to do some very thorough investigation before making any commitments!

As I mentioned earlier, personnel changes are common in Kambia, and Dr. Murray is no longer the DMO, she left Kambia at the end of October to take up a position as Programme Manager in the National HIV Aids Control Program within the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and we wish her every success in this new, national, role. We have a new DMO, Dr Joseph Bangura, and Moses reports that he is friendly and approachable and our initial dealings with him support this.

Periodically we review our governance structure and agreed some time ago that we needed another trustee. During 2019, via Richard’s enviable networking skills, we were introduced to Angela Page. Angela, or as she prefers to be called, Angie, is an ideal trustee for us as she is both medical and has experience of volunteering in Sierra Leone.

Angela qualified as a Doctor from Manchester University in 2013 and will be completing her GP training at the end of this month. During GP training, she gained her diploma in sexual and reproductive medicine. Prior to medical training she worked as an Auxiliary Nurse at the Great Western Hospital.

Aside from work, she has volunteered in Sierra Leone, where she assisted in a clinic for a charity named Street Child, and has had a placement in Kisiizi Hospital, South West Uganda, where she gained experience of medicine in a rural settling. Angie also volunteered for 4 months for the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation in India prior to her university training. We are delighted to have Angie join us and feel she will be a great addition to the team.

As part of our governance structure we have also been reviewing our fundraising strategy. We agreed some time ago that we needed to bolster our general funds in order to recruit someone on a part time basis to look after the day to day affairs of the Appeal. This will give us another layer between the activities of the appeal and its trustees – an ‘operations manager’ if you like. We are aware however that there are periods of time when there is very little activity, but always a need to raise funds! We agreed therefore to try and recruit someone who could also assist us with fundraising as well as managing our day to day affairs.

Initially we approached a local fundraising consultant, Anthony Oliver, who we were made aware of though Peter Marlow. Peter is also a trustee of St Peters Church – hence this venue, thank you Peter – a neighbouring Church ran a very successful fundraising campaign, using a part time fundraiser, who worked alongside Anthony. Anthony has helped us identify a number of organisations we can apply to for funds so we will be actively exploring these with a view to recruiting someone to fulfil this operational role.

In terms of what next year holds – more of the same. We have agreed to fund another round of MCHA mentoring and are just confirming costs. We would like this to be a regular occurrence with a target of six cycles per year. There is a DFID funding stream we can apply to which offers up to £50K over two years, so this is something we will be pursuing this year.

Mark Whyman and his excellent tropical medicine course for people working in low income countries, which attracts candidates from all over the UK, contributes to our training fund and resulted in a cheque for £3000. These funds mean we are able to continue with our scholarship programme and are looking, as previously mentioned, to start two more candidates and to fund expenses for two CHOs (Community Health Officer) to undertake the surgical skills programme at Masanga Hospital.