Find out more about Ebola, the deadly haemorrhagic disease that has been declared in Sierra Leone

Why are we there?

  • Endemic/epidemic disease
  • Healthcare exclusion

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Our work

This is an extract from our latest Activity Report, looking back on our work in the previous year.


An ambulance referral system and access to 24-hour emergency obstetric care has drastically reduced maternal deaths in Bo district, Sierra Leone.

A policy of free healthcare for children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women was introduced in 2010, but real improvements in access for these groups have not yet been achieved.

Many health facilities are understaffed, underequipped and lack medical expertise, and high numbers of preventable maternal and child deaths in the country are a result of a lack of access to healthcare.

Gondama referral centre

In Bo, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) runs a 220-bed obstetric and paediatric hospital, the Gondama referral centre.

Five ambulances transport pregnant women and children from nine community health centres. Another ambulance refers patients with complications from Gondama to the capital, Freetown.

Yet another is a specialised ambulance that brings patients to the Lassa fever unit at Kenema hospital. Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever that affects several organs in the body.

A study published by MSF in November showed that the rate of maternal deaths in Bo district is now 61 per cent lower than in the rest of the country.

An MSF doctor examines a malnourished child at the Gondama Referral Centre, Bo.

An MSF doctor examines a malnourished child at the Gondama Referral Centre, Bo. © Juan Carlos Tomasi

Cholera emergency

Between July and September, MSF responded to a cholera outbreak that was concentrated in Freetown, and provided treatment for 5,000 patients across four treatment centres.

MSF also supported the Ministry of Health to treat 427 patients at Bo government hospital.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 556 staff in Sierra Leone. MSF has worked in the country since 1986.

Patient story

Jenneba, 26 years old

“This is my third pregnancy. I have had two miscarriages before. Last night I felt pain, so an ambulance picked me up from the health centre and took me to Gondama. The nurse in the ambulance held my hand and talked to me nicely during the ride.

The nurses at the hospital examined me and said that I wasn’t in labour yet. I am still in pain and very worried about what is happening. If I lose this baby, I am worried that my husband will leave me.”

Jenneba’s son was born by caesarean section 10 days later.

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