Sierra Leone

Loyal Local Staffers in Sierra Leone Facilitate Seamless Return for International Medical Corps

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By: Joe Thompson

The smooth return to Sierra Leone was the result of International Medical Corps’ reputation in the country, an established working relationship with the MoH and invaluable returning local staff.

The work carried out by International Medical Corps throughout the country from 1999-2008 has left a lasting legacy. Here a child is given a malaria test by our staff member.

“Some people call me the son of International Medical Corps,” says Borbor Kamara with an easy grin. It’s a fitting title. Kamara, or ‘Bobo’ as he is affectionately known, was there at the inception of International Medical Corps in Sierra Leone in 1999, captaining a boat that evacuated malnourished children from rebel held areas around Tasso Island to the safety of nearby Freetown. After a two and a half year absence, International Medical Corps returned to Sierra Leone in late June of 2010. Bobo is one of a core of loyal and dedicated staff that have worked and grown with the organization over years of operations - and facilitated a seamless return to the country.

The smooth return to operations in Sierra Leone was the result of International Medical Corps’ reputation in the country, an established working relationship with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and invaluable returning local staff. Country Director, Wes Wrightson knew that International Medical Corps’ return would be seamless due to the organization’s consistent focus on training locals and employing local staff in Sierra Leone between 1999 and 2008.

“Getting returning staff back was my top priority when I hit the ground,” says Wrightson. “Right away some key returnees dropped everything to be part of our return. Why? They’ve seen firsthand the need is always there and been part of International Medical Corps as a professional, fast and quality assured first responder. It speaks volumes for our work here that they’ve all come back - and they’ve been my most loyal go-to guys.”

Upon returning last year, International Medical Corps has begun a five-year project in Sierra Leone to implement the Preventing Malnutrition in Children Under 2 Years of Age Approach through ACDI/VOCA’s Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion project funded by USAID’s Food For Peace. International Medical Corps’ longstanding, trusted working relationship with the Sierra Leone government and in particular the MoH will be instrumental in carrying out these nutrition activities.

“We’ve maintained contacts at the highest levels of some key line Ministries,” says Wrightson. “For example the Director of the Reproductive Health Program, Dr. Samuel Kargbo, worked with International Medical Corps’ first Country Director, Rabih Torbay back in 2002. It helps facilitate our work, they know from dealing with us for a long time that we operate on a very professional level.”

Mention International Medical Corps to any of the countless new friends that approach you when walking the Freetown streets and you’ll almost always receive a knowing nod of recognition. It is easy to take International Medical Corps’ reputation in Sierra Leone for granted. The work carried out throughout the country between 1999 and 2008 has left a lasting legacy in the country.

“I was so happy when International Medical Corps came back to Sierra Leone,” says Bobo. “They’ve changed my life, my future. When I started with International Medical Corps I was a boat captain - it was all I knew. Since then I’ve trained and worked as a plumber, electrician, generator maintenance man, driver, security person.... I didn’t ever go to school but I have a quick brain. I needed someone to give me the opportunity to help, to learn - I’m glad it was International Medical Corps. They know how to treat people.”

From Kailahun in the southeast to Freetown on the coast, a dedicated and inspired workforce is upholding International Medical Corps’ reputation and driving future successes in Sierra Leone.

Amid a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, International Medical Corps arrived in 1999 to deliver lifesaving emergency medical services - and remained as a key player after the war ended to help rehabilitate the health care system. The organization’s services in the country have included primary and secondary health care, nutrition, maternal/child care, mental health care, water/sanitation and training.

Since its inception more than 25 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.