The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2014
The village of Bumban in the Bombali district of Sierra Leone is one of the most deprived communities in the country. With a population of less than 200 and the absence of functioning health and education institutions, life expectancy is well below the national average.
Early deaths and the migration of young people in search of a better life in Makeni and even as far afield as the country’s capital – Freetown, has left the elderly and those incapacitated by preventable illnesses battling for survival. Young women are dying needlessly during childbirth.
The government says that it is providing free health care for lactating mothers, children under five and expectant women. But speak to the poor people of Bumban and the word healthcare, becomes a fuzzy dream.
This is about to change, thanks to the philanthropic work of Mr. Alpha Kalay.
Bumban is not an exceptional case. Most rural communities in Sierra Leone are faced with the desperate need for improved healthcare, safe clean drinking water systems, and electricity if they are to survive.
With the tireless and charitable work of many Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, several communities up and down the country are being kept alive.
Meet Mr. Alpha kalay – the philanthropist. He is a successful businessman living in Yorkshire in the UK. Although Alpha was born in Kissy, Freetown, his father and extended family were born and bred in Bumban. In the last twelve months, since visiting Bumban, Alpha has been busy raising funds to purchase vital medical supplies and equipment in support of the small local health centre serving the community of Bumban.
Alpha is determined to make a difference in improving the life chances of the people of Bumban and surrounding towns in Bombali, including Kamakwe.
The local health centre in Bumban, like most satellite health facilities in the country, does not have a resident doctor. It has two community health nurses who provide basic nursing care for the sick. But serious and complex medical conditions and emergencies are referred to the nearest functioning hospital in Makeni – a good twenty miles journey, if transportation is available.
The road in and out of Bumban is atrocious – a death trap.
Sadly, in most cases, acutely ill patients do not make it on time to Makeni. And the lucky ones that do – sometimes die because they cannot afford to pay for their care at the hospital.
Alpha kalay (Photo) says: “Most of the unnecessary deaths in the district of Bombali can be avoided, if the quality of services and the availability of medicines and resources at local health centres can be improved. And I am determined to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.”
Mr. kalay will shortly be arriving in Sierra Leone to supervise the shipping clearance of medical supplies – valued at over £100,000 at the Freetown Water Quay Port, heading for Bombali.
Officials at the ministry of health have kindly promised to help Mr. Kalay to facilitate the smooth clearance of the medical supplies at Water Quay, which includes: 55 beds and mattresses; 20 boxes containing bandages, needles, splints, and urinary catheters; a 5kv generator; 30 air conditioners; items of furniture; 10 bicycles; 50 crutches; consultation crouches; 20 baby weighing scales; boxes for the safe disposal of hypodermic needles; 300 bed linens; 50 blankets; and several children’s books and soft toys.
Christmas may have come a bit late for the people of Bumban, but Mr. Alpha Kalay is determined to ensure that these life changing gifts will make a difference.
There are no jobs to keep young people in Bumban. Despite having a flat arable land, which has the potential to become one of Sierra Leone’s food baskets, only the elderly can be seen in the village, growing crops for their own subsistence. Most of the young people have left for ‘greener pastures’.
Alpha is hoping to change all that. His ambition is to give new hope to the young people of Bumban.
Two medical specialists at the Pinderfields Hospital in Yorkshire, UK, have promised Alpha to visit Bumban to assess the health care needs of the community and the district of Bombali in general. Once they arrive in Bombali, they will offer free medical care and medicines.
President Koroma’s call for Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to do more for their home country is clearly being answered. But the government must do more to encourage and support sierra Leonean philanthropists like Mr. Kalay, in co-ordinating the clearance and providing logistics for the distribution of much needed charity supplies coming into the country.