Sierra Leone: Diaspora Health Professionals Offer Free Medical Services in Rural Communities
Moyamba – In 2017, IOM launched the project “Strengthening Sierra Leonean National Health Care Capacity through Diaspora Engagement” under its Migration and Development for Africa (MIDA) programme. Through the project, a partnership was created with the Afro-European Medical and Research Network (AEMRN), a network of diaspora Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals, to provide free healthcare services in rural communities.
Some 1,300 people benefited this month from free surgeries, medical examinations, dental extractions and other medical services delivered by the healthcare professionals during a two-week medical mission in the Moyamba District, in Southern Sierra Leone.
Access to effective health care services is a major problem in many rural districts across Sierra Leone, where villagers often must travel long distances to access life-saving medical services. This situation is in large part due to the shortfall in health workers in the country. According to the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, in 2017, less than 350 Sierra Leonean doctors were registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Sierra Leone.
Although the project ended in March 2019, the members of the AEMRN expressed their willingness to continue to voluntarily share their skills and expertise beyond the project timeframe. To this effect, a Mobile Health Clinics (MHC) campaign was rolled out between 4 and 17 May 2019 in partnership with the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health and nine health professionals from the AEMRN.
“We are happy to come back to serve our peers, especially those in remote areas. We want to achieve the Universal Health Coverage, thereby leaving no one behind. Therefore, we will continue to organize such medical missions to reach out to more people especially those in rural areas who cannot afford to pay for health care services,” said Dr Charles Senessie, a medical professional based in Switzerland and founder of AEMRN who participated in the campaign.
“We welcome the efforts of these skilled Sierra Leoneans who are willing to lend their skills to better the lives of their peers. This is also a way to give back and transfer knowledge and skills to local health care staff,” said Alhaji Sanusi Tejan Savage, Head of the IOM Office in Sierra Leone.
During the mission, doctors from local health clinics, including house officers, worked closely with the diaspora medics. Gregory Bajaalah, Medical Superintendent of Moyamba District, was one those who participated effectively. For him, “the mission was necessary for the district, as local medical staff had the opportunity to learn from experienced medical experts.”
The medical mission was conducted with support from IOM, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Serve United, Afro-European Medical and Research Network, the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in Geneva and the Sierra Leone Dental and Medical Association.