One of the highlights of my time here in Sierra Leone has been visiting the wonderful beaches this country has to offer. This last Saturday, I visited one of Sierra Leone’s most spectacular beaches, Bureh Beach. Although Bureh is probably no more than 45 miles away from Freetown, the journey there took a few hours considering Sierra Leone’s poor road conditions and bad traffic. I arrived at Bureh Beach with friends around 9am and we were fortunate to have the beach to ourselves for a few hours.
Around midday, hundreds of local students arrived at Bureh as part of a school outing. This made for some good people watching from our beach side hut while we enjoyed fresh pineapple, grapefruit, coconuts and fish. I bought a coconut from a man who literally likes to be called “coconut man”. He sells coconuts to earn money for surgery as he is nearly blind in one eye.
A group of British doctors and nurses were occupying the hut next to ours. I started chatting with a doctor who was about to return to Britain after working in Sierra Leone for a month. He was an OBGYN and was in Sierra Leone because of the significant lack of doctors here in his profession. He told us that there are a total of seven OBGYNs in the country, including two who are close to retirement. He also said that of the 147 doctors in Sierra Leone (a country of 5.6 million people) 40 are employed by the government and are therefore inaccessible to the public. In a study conducted about doctor prevalence across the world, Sierra Leone ranked 195 out of 200 countries studied, with .03 doctors per 1,000 people. I learned later, that due to lack of available and affordable healthcare, one in five children do not live past the age of five. Hopefully this statistic will improve in the near future as Sierra Leone’s government recently announced free universal health care for pregnant women and all children under five.
The MFI I am working for in Freetown, Association of Rural Development, gives entrepreneur an opportunity to expand their businesses and simultaneously, their well being. Through loans, borrowers are able to become more independent and financially stable. Therefore, if they or one of their family members fall ill they are more likely to be able to afford and have access to medical care and live longer and better lives. Help support borrowers in Sierra Leone by joining ARD’s Kiva Lending Team here.
Leslie Kincaid is a KF 13 fellow working in Freetown, Sierra Leone.