Where We Work
Sierra Leone is a country the size of South Carolina with a population of around 6 million on the coast of West Africa. It is tropical, mountainous, and rich in minerals – diamonds, gold, titanium, and others. Sierra Leoneans are of many tribes – Kono, Mende, Temne, Limba, Mandinko, and others – and most people are Christian or Muslim. The country gained its independence from Britain in 1961 after around 150 years of colonial rule. Sierra Leone’s ten-year civil war, which ended in 2002, displaced millions of people and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.
Wellbody Alliance’s medical complex is located in Dorma, a village close to Koidu, the capital of Kono District. Kono is a diamond-rich district in the Eastern region of Sierra Leone. Because of its mineral wealth, the region suffered devastation during the war -- its population was reduced from 600,000 to about 450,000 today. The mines still operate and employ many people in the area, but the region remains devastatingly poor and neglected. Koidu is about 275 miles from the capital city, Freetown, but only half of the road is paved and the journey takes up to ten hours by vehicle. Only five doctors and one hospital serve the entire district.
Life expectancy in Sierra Leone is around 47 years--the lowest in the entire world. Many people die of preventable or treatable causes like malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, or HIV/AIDS, or from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. According to the World Bank, 1 in 23 women in Sierra Leone will die in pregnancy or childbirth, and 1 in 5 children dies before reaching their 5th birthday. Twenty-one percent of children are malnourished or stunted; malnourishment and anemia also contribute to the astronomically high rates of maternal and infant mortality. In Kono, the most war-decimated region of the country, all of these indicators are likely significantly worse.
The government healthcare system in Sierra Leone is severely under-resourced— especially in regions far from the capital city. While The Free Health Care Initiative of 2010 officially removed user fees for mothers and children under 5 for medical care, but chronic shortages of drugs and supplies mean that many patients in Kono District receive free care only at the Wellbody clinic.