Think about Panguma: a village nestled in the green and brown hills of east Sierra Leone. It’s in West Africa’s diamond mining region. That’s where you’ll find the two-story-tall 60-foot-wide Catholic Mission Hospital.
Today is World Health Day. I want to tell you how Rise Against Hunger partners with organizations in developing communities to nourish lives and reach beyond our focus on food.
The West African Education and Medical Mission (WAEMM) is a nonprofit organization working to help people access health care in Panguma. WAEMM oversees 14 hospitals and 40 clinics across Sierra Leone. Mission Hospital and WAEMM face an ongoing problem: a shortage of medical supplies.
Paul Renaud looks for groups like WAEMM. Paul is Rise Against Hunger’s Aid Procurement Director. Paul is a registered pharmacist with a Master’s degree in International Development. Last month he went to Panguma.
WAEMM and Paul needed to build a relationship in order to provide Panguma with the medical supplies the community needed. The relationship started with a referral by a North Carolina Methodist Church. The church works with both Rise Against Hunger and WAEMM. They introduced Paul to someone they trust: Dr. Karen Asher, DO. Dr. Asher is WAEMM’s executive Director. The first meeting inspired confidence — Paul could see that Dr. Asher and her physician husband Tom had accomplished a lot in a short time.
But WAEMM needed more than a talented medical team. They needed the capacity to use Rise Against Hunger’s donated supplies efficiently and effectively. That’s why Paul went to Panguma. Dr. Asher took Paul on five days of hospital visits across the roads and hills of east Sierra Leone.
Paul saw striking need. Take insulin-dependent diabetic patients for example. Mission Hospital cares for 63 diabetic patients without access to insulin. Area hospitals have the means to properly store the hormone. WAEMM arranged the installation of several large scale solar power facilities to run storage refrigerators. But the hospitals can’t afford enough insulin for the patients.
That’s largely because Sierra Leone is still recovering from a ten-year civil war. Paul said he could still see the signs. A 1994 attack killed more than a dozen Panguma residents, and hospital staff were among those killed. Sierra Leoneans have worked to recover since the war ended in 2002. But their work isn’t done. And they still need foreign aid.
WAEMM showed Paul that they have the facilities and expertise needed to use our medical supplies. The organization is fully registered in Sierra Leone. They have experience with clearing shipments through customs. WAEMM also has experience distributing medicine through their hospital network. Paul brought several bottles of insulin to Panguma for those 63 diabetic patients, and WAEMM put them to good use right away.
Paul and Dr. Asher found what they needed. Rise Against Hunger plans to send donated medical supplies to Panguma beginning in mid-to-late 2017. WAEMM will put those supplies to good use. And Panguma will use WAEMM’s help to build a resilient region that can overcome illness and food insecurity.