Category Archives: Uncategorized

Responding to COVID-19

Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Sierra Leone, affecting all areas of life. The Government declared a 12 month state of public health emergency and a ban on gatherings has been introduced; there has been one short lockdown and there are now discussions about holding a longer lockdown. Our partners on the epilepsy programme have stopped holding group epilepsy awareness-raising events and have been contributing towards raising awareness of COVID-19 and preventing transmission. Using megaphones and keeping a safe distance, the Epilepsy Support Workers are supporting the efforts of District Health Management Teams across the country.

Apart from the lack of ventilators in Sierra Leone, there are chronic shortages of much more basic supplies needed to slow the spread of the disease and treat people with the virus eg masks, oxygen and, even more fundamentally, soap and water. If you would like to support our efforts to purchase and ship certified visors to health workers, community workers and disabled people’s organisations in Sierra Leone, please consider making a donation here.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1000266

Christmas Sun Cream Appeal for People With Albinism

*A Christmas idea that helps to save lives: buy 3 months supply of sun cream for a Person With Albinism in Sierra Leone*.
Persons With Albinism are at extreme risk of skin cancer, with an estimated 80% of people dying early from this condition. We have been supporting some people this year to access surgery for skin cancer as well as providing prescribed cream which removes pre-cancerous cells.
Preventing sun damage from occurring is very difficult in Sierra Leone. Protective sun cream is expensive and out of reach of most people (costing between £10-£15 a bottle locally; the average primary school salary is £40). Poverty is a determining factor on how much flexibility people have to avoid the sun. In the rural areas most people are subsistence farmers. Protection from the sun saves lives and needs to start from an early age. We have shipped two consignments of award-winning Aldi sun cream to Sierra Leone this year and need to maintain this supply. Can you help us by buying a small amount as a gift, postage free, and arranging for it to be sent to our registered office: MASL, 31 Grove Hill, Reading RG4 8PN. We will arrange shipment to Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone Association of Persons With Albinism will distribute to members. Donations of any size are welcome and appreciated and can also be left in a box on the doorstep at this address.

Mohamed Osman Kamara, Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Association of Persons With Albinism, with young members of the Association at a sun cream distribution event,
October 2019.

Living Safely with Epilepsy

Over 200 patients and their families – in Bo, Kabala and Freetown – participated in our lively interactive sessions run by MASL Trustee and Epilepsy Nurse Tolu Olaniyan during SUDEP week, October 2019. There was plenty of time to ask questions, clarify uncertainties, talk about medication side-effects, and seek support on the social aspects of the condition. There were opportunities for the men and the women attendees to have separate discussions. Epilepsy is affected by so many factors – diet, sleep, activity levels, pregnancy, puberty, etc – and patients benefited enormously from exploring in further detail how they can minimise the risks associated with the condition.

Work with the Sierra Leone Association of Persons with Albinism

The Sierra Leone Association for Persons With Albinism (SLAPWA) attended our training around public health, stigma and witchcraft abuse earlier in the year. The Association seeks to address many of the themes that we see in the epilepsy project work, especially around the lack of local health care provision to support the specific needs of the community and the stigma that surrounds the condition. Key health care challenges are: managing the high skin cancer risk (estimates suggest that 80% of the Albinism community in Sierra Leone will die early from skin cancer) and support for eye care. Protective sun cream is expensive in Sierra Leone and out of reach of most people. We arrange purchase and shipment of sun cream to Sierra Leone and have arranged urgent treatment with visiting surgeons for patients with Albinism. We would welcome contacts with companies that may be able to donate Factor 50 sun cream, blocking both UVB and UVA, as well as offers of protective clothing and hats which we can ship to the Association for distribution to members. Protection from the sun saves lives and needs to start from an early age.

MASL celebrates 15 years!

We will mark our 15th year of operation in 2019. We are planning some activities to mark the occasion and some dedicated supporters have offered to do some challenges! If you can help us to mark this milestone and support more people to access vital epilepsy medication, do get in touch. A cake sale, a half-marathon, a dinner party or BBQ – it does not have to be a huge event. Most of our epilepsy medication can be made available for around £20 a year. Medication transforms lives and there are still an estimated 90,000 people without access to epilepsy drugs in Sierra Leone. Can you help us to support more people this year?

Workshop on Understanding Harmful Beliefs and Public Health

Our workshop on ‘Beyond Safeguarding: Harmful Beliefs and Public Health’ at The British Council, Freetown, on 24 June, was attended by staff from the Epilepsy Association, the Sierra Leone Autistic Society and the Sierra Leone Association for Persons with Albinism.

Witchcraft accusations are an almost universal experience for our epilepsy patients who attend clinic, and often for their families too. The UN is planning a special resolution acknowledging the severity of human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft, calling for urgent action.

MASL Trustee Leethen Bartholomew ran a workshop for 30 attendees on understanding and meeting the needs of those accused of witchcraft/spiritual possession and looking at how we can further safeguard people from harm, especially children, in our support work. There were many shared experiences amongst the participating organisations, including the pervading impact of stigma which leads to the direct denial of human rights for those affected. We look forward to continuing to work with all organisations on this important issue. We are grateful to The British Council for the use of their seminar room.

Call for Support for Epilepsy Medication Costs

MASL provides all the medication for the epilepsy project – 5 types of medication to treat various epilepsies – purchased and shipped from the UK. This costs around £15,000 annually.

Please help us mark International Epilepsy Awareness Day on 12 February by supporting our medication bill. For 70% of patients, this treatment completely stops seizures and other forms of epilepsy; for 20-25% it will mean reduced seizures/absences/other manifestations of epilepsy. Uncontrolled epilepsy directly affects health and social and economic capacity – preventing participation in education, in employment and forcing individuals and families into poverty.

Our Chair of Trustees has set up a page on Virgin Money Giving. Please consider supporting the costs of this life-transforming medication.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=SarahSnowMASL&pageUrl=3

First Autism Conference in Sierra Leone, Dec 2017

Medical Assistance Sierra Leone and the Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone (EASL) were pleased to participate in the first autism conference in the country in Dec 2017. Around 25% of people with autism also have epilepsy – we are not seeing these numbers at clinic and the Epilepsy Association were there in full to learn how autistic people and their families may be better supported to come forward and access medical services.

The Pan-African Experiences of Autism: Transforming Rights Into Reality Conference took place at The British Council in Freetown on 4 & 5 December 2017 and was extremely well attended, with participation from parents, carers, teachers, NGOs, health workers and Ministry officials. The event marked the International Day of Persons With Disabilities and staff have already identified children with autism in the community in need of support as a result of detailed information, along with insightful film case studies,  provided at the conference.

IMG_2976 IMG_2977

Bridging the 95% epilepsy treatment gap

With a network of 22 clinics now established through our partnership work, a necessarily ambitious programme of awareness-raising needs to be delivered in order to reach the large number of people with epilepsy in Sierra Leone who currently receive no treatment.  Alongside this, capacity needs to be maintained and strengthened within the health sector so that skills are kept up to date and new staff coming through have a basic understanding of epilepsy diagnosis and management to make appropriate referrals. We have recently secured some support for a public awareness-raising campaign and community awareness activities, led by Epilepsy Support Workers in Bo, Kabala and Freetown. The Support Workers are reaching out to schools, places of workshops and community leaders to promote accurate understandings of epilepsy. Later this year we will be producing radio adverts and a short video for showing on TV to highlight the key campaign messages.

Dr Jalloh and the Banner

Dr Jalloh, a member of the epilepsy clinical team, at the offices of the Epilepsy Association Sierra Leone, Rokupa, Freetown.

Support to Ebola-Affected Communities

THANK YOU to those people and companies who have supported us in the last few months, as we have tried to respond to the many requests for assistance from partners in Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone community in Reading have led on multiple fundraising events, including meals, sponsored walks, a gala night, as well as holding collections in workplaces (Vodafone, Motorola, Optalis), churches and mosques. This has enabled us to buy protective supplies and ship these along with other donated clinical goods to clinics and hospitals. Many volunteers gave their time over two weekends to help with loading the trucks.

We have been able to provide food aid to quarantined communities in Port Loko, and with the help of the Epilepsy Association and Suafiatu Tunis of Community Response, extend support to the families of 30 health workers at Kenema Hospital who lost their lives looking after patients during this outbreak. We are grateful to Mr Rajwani in Freetown for the free use of his truck and driver for two days for the transportation of bags of rice and other essential goods to Kenema.

Additional donations of clothing and food have been distributed to those in need including survivors of ebola in Port Loko and Rokupa,  members of the Epilepsy Association, and orphans in Freetown and Port Loko.  Collaborating partners include Amazonian Initiative Movement whose pioneering kindergarten has now been given over to 40 children orphaned by ebola who are being cared for by volunteers. Any help that individuals wish to extend to affected communities will be despatched immediately. We are grateful for all the support received.