Saturday, August 23, 2008
Another day at the children’s hospital.
Not a good day, overall.
Chaos on the streets outside, under a searing sun.
Chaos inside, the junior doctors overwhelmed. Patients and parents line the corridors.
In the hospital courtyard, my little friend Ibrahim – covered in scars from a long-ago kerosene burn – in hysterics. “I beat him for playing in the gutter,” says a man nearby.
A meeting with the maintenance team. Frustration all around. A suspiciously inflated invoice. Still no plan to fix the water pump. Another deadline.
On Ward 2 a little girl close to death, her eyes glassy, her mother terrified. A nurse adjusts the flow on her blood transfusion. “She’s improving,” she says, unconvincingly.
We trudge upstairs to Ward 3, short on optimism.
And then we hear it.
A remarkable sound.
A child laughing.
Towards me, down the center of the ward, runs a little girl in a flowered dress. Her belly peeks out through a missing button.
She laughs again. The sound brightens the ward.
I run towards her and she shrieks with delight, turns and runs away. Her steps are those of a typical toddler, unsteady but fearless.
Children nearby watch us through the bars of their beds. One or two smile weakly.
I ask her mother, who sits grinning on the windowsill, how long she’s been here. A few days, she says. Before that, another hospital. They gave her blood. Her feet and hands still have marks from the IV.
I ask the nurses. She has tuberculosis.
Her name is Mary.
She is playing hide-and-seek. Behind the curtains, around the cement pillars, under the worn metal cots. She giggles while I search.
I catch her and she collapses under my tickling hands, squealing with pleasure.
This is the best part of my day.
I say goodbye and walk away. I have to work.
She sneaks up behind me. I turn and see her impish grin, and can’t resist.
The game begins again.
Mary is laughing.
So am I.
To help support the hospital described here, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone, please visit the Welbodi Partnership.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I returned to
On July 13, the Sierra Leonean authorities confiscated a plane filled with 600 kg of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $54 million. The Venezuelan plane, a fake Red Cross decal on its tail, landed in
This is all exciting, of course, but is also deadly serious for this small country working so hard to maintain peace and order after a decade-long civil war. In recent years, as demand for cocaine has increased dramatically in
To avoid this, or even the perception of this, the government of Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has treated the case very seriously. Not only have they moved quickly to arrest suspects, and even to suspend very senior members of their own government, but have also taken steps to ensure those already arrested don’t manage to slip away. (Suspects and even convicted criminals have a way of disappearing from police custody from time to time.)
Therefore the police and military, afraid that South American drug barons might swoop in with a paramilitary force to bust their companions out of jail, have blocked traffic all along
Now I personally think it’s a bit far-fetched that the drug lords will risk any more men to rescue the small fry rotting in a
I can't fault the government for what is certainly an admirable show of force and a clear message to any drug lords looking to use
For one, they could do something about the laughable airport security. Last time I flew out of Lungi, the female security guard tasked with patting me down for weapons or contraband – because they don’t have a metal detector or any sort of scanner for persons or bags – decided I wasn’t a threat. Laughing, she gave me a big, friendly bear hug instead.