Sunday, 23 November 2014

Food Basket Delivery Marampa Chiefdom

Sierra Leone

1 country
13 Districts
149 Chiefdoms

Today, all about one Chiefdom. Marampa Chiefdom. A two hour, 120 kms drive northeast of Freetown. In the northern Province. We're in Lunsar. A dispiriting day. An uplifting day. Not quite in equal measure. We're in one of the worst Ebola affected areas in the country.

In numbers;

Villages visited: 8
Households assisted: 31
Food baskets distributed: 35
Deaths encountered: 55    
Under quarantine: 70
Survivors met: 8 

I mention numbers. They can't do it justice. They're just numbers. These are real people. Real stories. I served in the British Army 24 years. Never have I witnessed such devastation as seen in these small villages. Some of this post might be tough going for some. It's raw in parts. The photos speak for themselves. They capture the situation completely.

55 deaths in the houses and adjoining houses visited. Such human suffering. I've said it before. I'll say it again. Ebola is a disease that hits mostly the poor. The poor, and of course the medical staff in the front lines. Today brought this home like never before. I don't want to write too many words, rather let the images speak for themselves.

Where it really hit home was Labour Compound No. 10. Affected us all, me included. 

This lady was sat crying and confused. Her name is Safiatu Fofanah. She's broken. Safiatu has lost her husband and all 4 children. Her grief, her suffering was tangible. Difficult to photograph. She's the only survivor from her family of 6 souls. Safiatu needs counseling. Such 'luxuries' do not exist in the hinterland of Sierra Leone. This village is a few desolate houses sprinkled either side of a sandy coloured dirt road. Hardest hit area we visited all day. In total the 7 households had lost 12 people. There were another 7 in quarantine.

We delivered a basket to each household. Seven baskets. 

I must mention the nurse in the photo. Madam Isha Daramy Kabia. Nearly 40 years in the UK National Health Service as a midwife. Completed her lengthy service at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in 2004. Lives both in London and Freetown, but moves back and forth. Isha is making a huge difference on the ground. A true hero. 

Since the delivery last Friday, we've since met again where I was fortunate to dine with her for a couple of hours. She's up at 0600 hrs every day, takes a light breakfast, and often works from sunrise to beyond sunset. A light dinner in the evening is separated by 6 coconuts a day. She decants the coconut water and fills 2 water bottles. Isha has plenty of energy and keeps up with her younger assistants easily.

This family in Kontha Bana has also been devastated. The mother being monitored in the photo has lost her husband and eldest son. The child had held his father.

These are the surviving children. 2 days after these photos were taken mother and daughter were admitted to Port Loko Treatment Centre. They had elevated temperatures. This proves the value of monitoring. Isha and team do this every single day, and keep great records. They will be away for 21 days. Let's hope they return to the 2 boys, who will remain under quarantine. Below the basket, the charcoal bundle, the water, the bag of rice. Many of you reading this blog have contributed to these baskets. Here's your money being spent as carefully as possible. 

We've raised nearly $9,000 so far. We've spent just over $5,000. This includes another 27 baskets delivered to Makeni by KAB 2 days ago. I'm back to Conakry, Guinea for a few days.

Some of the remaining fund is still in the form of pledges. To those I say please send when you can. Details in the previous posts, or email me direct ( Anyone else who would like to donate, no matter how small; please, you are most welcome. I'd like to keep going until Christmas at least. 

The mood in our vehicle by now was subdued, sombre almost. It had been a long day. The last village was Dumpa Line. The lone survivor from 8 in this house. 

Dead were 5 adults and 2 children. Pictured is Abdulai Fofanah. Poor Abdulai looks sick. Uncle Abdulai has lost 7 people close to him. He looks weak, confused... He seemed to know his fate. We left a basket. He struggled to open the cheese triangles, the first thing he took from the basket. A sad sight. The neighbours looked on from their own nearby houses talking quietly to themselves. A policeman appeared. He smelt of alcohol and looked like he'd been taking substance.  

2 days following this photo Abdulai died. Nurse Isha called for the burial team. 

We then delivered 3 baskets at Mabenseneh Hospital in Lunsar. This is funded by the Catholic Church. It was in this hospital another quiet hero contracted Ebola and later died following evacuation to Madrid. Spanish missionary, Manuel Garcia Viejo, worked here as a Medical Director. People speak fondly of the love they had for him. He was 69 years old.

We have to finish on an upbeat note. To another part of Lunsar, New London. Here KAB delivered a special basket to now 9 months old Yaya and family. You may remember Yaya from a recent post, 'Farewell to Conakry'. KAB had also collected toys and clothes for Yaya. 

In Yaya's extended family there were 16 members. 8 are dead, including the parents. The grandmother was the first to die after caring for a sick relative. The father was next, then the mother, and other family members. 3 children, including Yaya, never tested positive for Ebola. You may remember Yaya was breastfeeding when his mother passed.

5 of his older siblings were tested positive after caring for their dying parents. Miraculously        all survived the virus after receiving early treatment. Yaya, along with his surviving siblings, are being lovingly cared for by his aunt. A nice place to finish...

Forget rewriting Band Aid 30. Rewrite 'If' by Rudyard Kipling...

If you can dream - Sierra Leone could even have a rudimentary healthcare system;
If you can dream - politicians can think beyond themselves;
If you can dream - all people could have access to Ebola treatment centres after 6 months of waiting;
If you can dream - all quarantined homes could all have food, and quarantine means just that;
If you can dream - specialist monitoring teams all over the country - there isn't

If you can meet with Disaster... that's what this is...

Thank you - to all the team today. Outstanding. Not easy stuff. KAB - did 90% of the work on this one, particularly in the preparation. That's where the hard work is done. Baby Diva, once again conquering fear. Senior Diva for keeping our business afloat during these absences. Kofie M of Camserve, who generously loaned us a truck for the day, and supplied the charcoal and water. Isha and her team from the Catholic Church in Lunsar. To all of you who've donated, and battled through MoneyGram, you've made a difference in plenty of lives. 

Not about any of us though, it's about the poor souls in these photos and the countless others suffering at the moment all over the country, as well as in Guinea & Liberia...

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