New MSF health facility for Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone

The majority of the refugees living in the camps around Bo fled their homes in 2001 and 2002, when LURD assaulted Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties in the north west of Liberia. Many spent months hiding in the bush with very little food and medicine, before making their way to the camps in Sierra Leone. Many have little support around them, having lost family members during attacks by rebel and government troops or to sickness whilst making the journey to Sierra Leone.
MSF has opened a new health facility in to provide medical care to Liberians seeking refuge in Sierra Leone. About 40,000 Liberian refugees are currently living in refugee camps in eastern Sierra Leone after being forced to flee Liberia due to ongoing fighting between the "LURD" rebels and troops loyal to the current President, Charles Taylor. The 60-bed facility will act as a referral centre for refugees from seven camps around the town of Bo and will treat illnesses that cannot be dealt with at the camp health clinics such as malaria, Lassa fever, meningitis and acute malnutrition. MSF started to build the facility in January due to concerns that refugees were not receiving adequate care through the existing local health structures. The first patients were admitted at the beginning of April and the centre is now operating at full capacity. The complex includes male, female and paediatric wards, a pharmacy, an isolation ward and a laboratory. A therapeutic feeding centre to treat acutely malnourished children is still under construction and is expected to be functioning in about six weeks. Surgery cases will still need to be referred to the local hospital at Bo. "The centre is already extremely busy," reported Dr Drissa Diakite, the MSF doctor in charge of the facility. "The main problem we are facing is that people leave it right until the last minute to seek medical help, which means we are constantly coping with emergency cases. Many of the refugees try treating themselves with 'traditional' medicine first and only come to ask for our advice as a last resort, when the patient is close to death. We even have had quite a few cases of herbal intoxication, when patients have been poisoned by taking "traditional" herbal remedies." In an effort to persuade refugees to come to the MSF health clinics and health facilityl in time, MSF has teams of home visitors - themselves Liberian refugees - who go from house to house in the camps checking on the health of families. They also do follow up work to make sure that people who have received treatment understand how to take their medicine properly. The majority of the refugees living in the camps around Bo fled their homes in 2001 and 2002, when LURD assaulted Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties in the north west of Liberia. Many spent months hiding in the bush with very little food and medicine, before making their way to the camps in Sierra Leone. Many have little support around them, having lost family members during attacks by rebel and government troops or to sickness whilst making the journey to Sierra Leone. "By building this facility, MSF aims to improve the quality and accessibility of medical care for an extremely vulnerable population," said Robert Rowies, MSF Head of Mission in Freetown. "As a country which has itself only just emerged from a brutal civil war, the heavy influx of refugees is obviously an extra burden on Sierra Leone. "During the 11 year conflict numerous clinics and hospitals were destroyed and the country is has only begun to rebuild itself during the fragile peace of the last couple of years. MSF is here to try and ensure that the most vulnerable people are not forgotten during the gradual reconstruction process of the health services."