Serving you Where you Are: Community Health Outreaches in Sierra Leone

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By Maryanne W. Waweru

Freetown, Sierra Leone – Early one morning as 31-year-old Fatama Kamara performed her regular chores in the house, she momentarily stopped to listen to an announcement blazing though a loudspeaker in her neighborhood. It was an announcement about a community health outreach event that would be happening that day at the Dwarzack Community Hall.

After listening to the public announcement, Fatama, a mother of three and businesswoman who sells cakes, biscuits and sweets in Dwarzack, a low-income neighborhood in Freetown, had made the decision to attend the outreach. Besides, her visit to a health care provider had been long overdue.

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Dwarzack Community Hall where PPASL regularly conducts community health outreaches

Post-Partum Complications

See, Fatama’s last born son is only five-weeks old. Two weeks after his delivery, she had returned to hospital for the recommended check-up where she had been told that her blood pressure was low. After being given medication, the doctor had instructed her to return after seven days. Unfortunately, Fatama just hadn’t found time to go back to the hospital.

“Between caring for my 8-year-old, 6-year-old, my newborn and running my business to ensure I provide for my children, I haven’t found any time to squeeze a visit back to the hospital. Besides, going to the hospital will cost me money in terms of transport, consultation fee, possible lab tests and medication which I don’t have right now,” she told us.

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Fatama was therefore relieved when she heard the announcement about a community health outreach event in her neighborhood. It was even more exciting because she heard that the services would be provided by the Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone (PPASL) -an organization whose services she was familiar with.

Just two years ago, Fatama had received family planning services from the PPASL clinic in Freetown.

“I was pleased with the services I received that day, and I particularly remember how the nurse treated me. She was kind, and the contraceptive she gave me worked well until I was ready to have another child. That’s why when this morning I heard that PPASL would be offering services at the Dwazark community hall, I quickly readjusted my schedule so that I could talk to them about my low blood pressure issue.”

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Conversations with Daughters about their Sexual Health

As she waited for her turn to be seen by the health care provider, Fatama listened to the information being shared by one of the community health workers.

“Many girls in Dwarzack get pregnant while still in school. Because of this, we were told that as parents, we must talk to our daughters from an early age, telling them to focus on their education and stay in school. We were told to talk to them about abstinence and the need to protect themselves if they are sexually active. I will ensure that I talk to my daughter about her body as she grows,” revealed Fatama.

When Fatama’s turn to be seen by the clinician arrived, she informed him about her low blood pressure issue. She also accessed laboratory and pharmacy services during the outreach.  

“I am happy because being here today has saved me a lot of time and money. I know my health will be well because it is service providers from PPASL who have attended to me. I have great confidence in them. I have not paid a single Leone for all the services I have received today. Upon my return home, I’ll encourage my friends to also come here before the day ends!” an excited Fatama told us.

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Thaim Kargbo, the Programme Director at PPASL says that community outreach health events are one of the effective strategies that the organization uses to reach communities with information and reproductive health services.

“At this outreach today, we served 198 women with a wide range of services including HIV testing, Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, birth control, counseling on STI prevention, treatment and management, condom distribution and pregnancy testing. Community health outreaches help to eliminate some of the barriers that people face in accessing health services, such as time constraints and costs related to going to hospital for services.”

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Thaim Kargbo (right) during the outreach.

For enhanced success, PPASL partners with different organizations, including the Ministry of Health, community health volunteers, local leaders and the local administration.

Maryanne W. Waweru is the Communications Officer, IPPF Africa Regional Office

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