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Inside Hangha hospital: Life-saving medical care for mothers and children in east Sierra Leone

17 Dec 20
This article is more than one year old

Inside Hangha hospital: Tales from Sierra Leone

Inside Hangha hospital: Tales from Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world. For every 100,000 births, 1,360 mums will sadly lose their lives, while 109 children out of 1,000 will die.

An already fragile healthcare system and a critical lack of staff – an impact still felt from the deadly 2014-16 Ebola epidemic – have led to this drastic rise in the number of deaths of pregnant women and children under five.

History repeating itself

To combat this, in March 2019 MSF opened a hospital at Hangha, in the east of Sierra Leone, as part of a wider focus on maternal and paediatric healthcare in the region.

Since opening, the team at Hangha have triaged and treated over 16,000 children in the emergency room and admitted 9,600 to the wards.

However, when COVID-19 first reached the country, the number of admissions to the hospital fell dramatically. The fears felt back in the Ebola outbreak returned, as people became scared of seeking healthcare.

The team had to act to prevent more lives being lost as a consequence of the coronavirus.

A new frontline

In response to this rising threat, we had to rapidly scale up the use of mobile clinics. Our teams began travelling to Nongowa, Simbaru and Dodo chiefdoms to deliver healthcare directly to people in their own communities.

From June until the end of November, MSF mobile clinic teams treated nearly 3,000 children under the age of five, carried out 450 antenatal assessments and treated 240 new or expectant mothers.

Amid the global gloom of the pandemic, the spirit and solidarity among the staff at Hangha – working to bring new life safely into the world, and provide care for critically ill children – has become a beacon of hope.

MSF in Sierra Leone

In 2014, Sierra Leone seemed as though it was finally putting its brutal, decade-long civil war behind it. The west African country was enjoying substantial economic growth when, in May 2014, it was faced with another disaster: Ebola.

Access to medical care in Sierra Leone was already limited before the Ebola epidemic and it is estimated that around 10 percent of the country’s health workers were among the 3,950 people killed by the virus.

Sierra Leone was finally declared Ebola-free on 17 March 2016 and is now struggling to rebuild its shattered health system.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams work in hospitals, primary health facilities and in the community to increase access to healthcare, fill gaps in the provision of essential medicines, and help develop the country’s health workforce.

Our focus is on maternal and child healthcare, but we monitor the health situation across the country, ready to respond to emergencies as required.