I have spent the last five days in Bo, I have barely spent much more than a week in one place since I arrived in Sierra Leone two months ago. My first two months here have flown by and I am enjoying my work immensely, I do feel a bit like a tortiose carrying it's house around as I am permanently living out of my rucksack!
I got back to Freetown last night having spent the week in Bo, at the Government Hospital, as one of the facilitators of a four day training course. The course is designed specifically for health workers providing maternal and newborn care in low resource countries by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine [LSTM]. It is an extremely comprehensive course aimed to equip health workers with the skills to recognise complications and effectively manage maternal and newborn emergencies in order and reduce the high number of deaths of mothers and babies.
The participants were made up of four midwives and 27 MCHAs - who although are not as highly trained as midwives are the frontline workers in Sierra Leone; they deliver a huge amount of the care of women and babies and are the ones who are working (often as the only health worker) in remote, rural areas. It is essential for them to have the skills being taught on this course both to enable them to be able to identify when a case is outside their scope of practice and needs referral but equally importantly how to manage these emergencies whilst transfer to a hospital is arranged. Transferring a woman or baby to hospital can take many hours because of the poor infrastructure and limited transport options here. Women and babies lives will be saved if these health workers can implement life saving measures.
We were 8 facilitators in all, half from in country and the others who facilitate the courses for LSTM from UK and Nigeria. I really enjoyed working with the other facilitators and there was a great team spirit throughout the week. Jen, Jo and I enjoyed walking around Bo, some fabric shopping and cold drinks together in the evenings. We were all lucky to have Alpha with us who now lives in the UK but is from Bo, he made sure we got to and from the hospital everyday and brought us delicious home cooked food from his family.
The enthusiasm and committment from the participants (many of whom are only just completing their training and were being taught many of the skills for the first time), was inspiring and enabled us to get through an intense four days of training in 30+ degree heat, trying to be heard over the noise of two generators with smiles on our faces and a real sense of achievement. Especially as the pre and post course assessments of the participants knowledge and skills showed a marked improvement.
I think Gladys who ensured we were all well fed had a large part to play in the smooth running of the four days too. She served us such huge platefuls of lunch that we were nearly able to feed half the hospital, as we all needed to share our portions. She managed to serve something different everyday and each dish was delicious, especially Jollof rice with fried chicken and pepper sauce. I'll be writing from Makeni next as I leave on sunday for work at the Midwifery School on monday. Pictures to follow, internet not fast enough right now!