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My Health & Community Heroes

February 26, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) Reporting from Kailahun

In the remote village of Jeneh in the Upper Bambara Chiefdom, Kailahun District, a man gave up his only house for years for the community to have a health clinic. His name is Momoh Mohamed Tejan.

“The health of my community comes first before me and my family,” said Tejan proudly.

In 2010 the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) posted Nurse Martha K. Brima to be in charge of the Jeneh health post.

Five years later the community now has its own health building, built from their own initiative and through the vision of Nurse Martha.

“When I came here, I insisted we shouldn’t continue to deprive Tejan and his family from their home, even though he didn’t complain,” explained Nurse Martha.

After several requests to her head office Nurse Martha also realized that in the midst of the Ebola outbreak the country’s health sector was over stretched in the area of resources. So she mobilized the community to build their own health clinic with their own resources- human and material.

According to Nurse Martha, she also invested her regular Performance Based Financing (PBF) fund into the building. By 2014 the community had erected two mud structures, one as the health clinic and the other as staff quarter for Nurse Martha and her staff.

She said they paid the contractor in kind because the community couldn’t meet his cost financially.

God they say help those who help themselves.

Then came in SEND Foundation Sierra Leone. With funding from Christian Aid and the Zochonis Charitable Trust, they completed the health building and equipped it with beds and solar power.

“This is not our project,” insisted SEND Foundation Country Director, Joseph Ayamga. “This is the initiative of the community itself and we are happy to support it.”

Ayamga hailed Nurse Martha who pushed relentlessly for the community to have its own health building.

“It shows when a community comes together they can do great things for their own good. Government doesn’t always have the answers and resources,” he said.

During the annual health summit they initiated in Kailahun District, which brings together all the Peripheral Health Units (PHUs), Maternity and Child Health Posts (MCHPs) and Community Health Posts (CHPs), SEND Foundation found out that a lot of the district’s health facilities are not in good order.

“Many are rented houses, with no beds, toilets, water and power supply,” revealed Ayamga.

However, Ayamga commended the initiative of Jeneh community to move out of that bracket.

On Thursday 19th February 2015 the keys to the completed Jeneh Health Clinic was handed over to Nurse Martha through Paramount Chief Cyril Foray Gondor II and the DHMT at a formal ceremony in the village, about 30 kilometers from Kailahun town.

“This occasion calls for celebration. My people requested for a ‘mask debul’ parade but I pleaded with them that we keep it low key, because Ebola is still around and the bye-laws are still in force,” said PC Gondor II, whose authority covers six sections in the Upper Bambara Chiefdom.

He said government could not do everything as the competition for limited resources is huge.

“Government needs partners; I also, as Paramount Chief, need partners to push my development agenda for this chiefdom.

“SEND Foundation is a key partner, but they also can’t do it alone; they need their funders,” he explained, adding that the organization complements the development effort of the DHMT and the District Council.

PC Gondor II reminded the community that the structure would not be called SEND Foundation health center but Jeneh Health Center; and urged them to ensure the culture of maintenance of the facility.

For Nurse Martha it was a moment of accomplishment.

“I’m very, very happy we’ve reached this far,” she said happily. “This is a dream come true for me. Now we will deliver the services to the people of this community.”

The Jeneh Health Center targets a population of about 6,549 with 17 catchment villages. According to Nurse Martha there are about 250 pregnant women, women in child bearing (WCBA) 1,459, Under Fives 1,109, Under Ones 399 and surviving infants (SI) 220 as of 2014.

She said all equipment at the former health post would be transferred to the new structure and services would commence as soon as the DHMT gives the green light.

However, the new Jeneh Health Center is still far from completion. The staff quarter is still a mud structure; there are no toilets, running water (construction of a water well is ongoing) and incinerator. These are necessities for an efficient health delivery service.

Meanwhile, Tejan is happy he and his family are going back to their house but said he’s more than happy Jeneh community now has a befitting health center and he’s proud to have played a role in that.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).