Sickle-Cell Anaemia in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Context

 

Sierra Leone is just emerging from 10 years of a vicious war that devastated the country’s infrastructure and terrorized its civilians. According to IRC an international non-governmental organisation working in Sierra Leone, Kono district, which never had much infrastructure even before the war, was at the epicentre of the conflict on the country’s eastern border with Guinea all because of her diamonds mines. Peace was finally declared in January 2002, after United Nations and British troops intervened. Since then, hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people have been returning to Kono to find destroyed homes, schools and health clinics’.

 

The country is far away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. For example, the health situation is grave in Sierra Leone, which still has the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world, and it is even worse in Kono. Nearly one out of every three children dies before his/her fifth birthday, and women have a one in six chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia remain the major killers, and children the principal victims. Destroyed clinics, impassable roads, and low literacy levels make it hard to provide adequate care – less than one in 10 women in Kono, for example, know how to read (www.globalhealth.org, 17/03/08).

 

It is important to note here that the goal and objectives of SCCAN ties in with Sierra Leones national health strategy,

  •  ‘To educate the general population on health matters so as to bring about the   necessary changes in behaviour that will lead to the attainment of better health.’
  • ‘To reduce the high mortality and morbidity among mothers and children thereby improving their quality of life’ (National Operational Handbook for Primary Health Care in Sierra Leone, 2004: 4).
  • To intensify nutrition education and sensitization.
  • ‘To extend the coverage of anaemia prevention and control to pregnant and lactating mothers and children 6-24 months.

‘The knowledge of the people on basic facts i.e. the cause(s), mode of transmission, prevention and economic impact of prevailing health problems … is inadequate’. In addition, ‘the lack of access to information, education and communication on disease conditions and the under utilization of health services like RH/FP by a larger percentage of the population exposes them to illness, disability, poverty and death’.

 

The wellbeing and welfare of sickle cell patients is SCCAN’S primary concern. Therefore we aim to offer a variety of services to meet carers, individual and family needs to enable and empower them to care more effectively. Carers have been doing a significant job in the midst of limitations despite their lack of adequate knowledge of SCA. SCCAN services encompass education, counselling, referrals to health care and social services agencies, and emergency financial assistance. The counselling and education program is intended to help keep patients and their families informed about Sickle Cell Disease and to respond to the diverse questions and concerns that surface during counselling sessions e.g. unemployment, causes of CSA; transportation needs during crisis, problems with getting drugs. As a result, over the past year 20 people have received or accessed our services.

 

Requests for other forms of assistance are responded to on an as needed basis, including grants for clothing, food, shelter, utilities, transportation and other personal and household necessities depending on the impact the illness poses on individuals and families livelihood.