Dr. Yankuba Bah and his colleagues are the first line of defense within Sierra Leone’s health care system. As part of the nation’s District Health Management Team (DHMT) in Bombali, he practices medicine in the rural interior of Sierra Leone, far from modern medical equipment or hospitals.
Dr. Bah’s small team in Bombali district is responsible for the health of more than 420,000 people, a task that is made even more difficult by shortages in manpower, resources, and facilities. Dr. Bah knows what his people need, but in the past his advice has largely been ignored by the international community. “They came and told us what it is they were going to do and never bothered to ask what it is we need,” he said. “And [there were] those who said they will do something and never returned.”
International Medical Corps’ Food for Peace-funded Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion program (SNAP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is structured around cooperation with Sierra Leoneans like Dr. Bah to maximize the potential for medical relief and social development among the nation’s poverty-stricken. SNAP’s approach allows local medical providers to identify where their patients’ needs are greatest by utilizing their life experience within the community.
Through its work with the people of Sierra Leone, SNAP delivers nutritious food rations, constructs and rehabilitates health clinics, re-stocks existing clinics with medicine and supplies, and conducts education and training programs for maternal health, childcare, environmental stewardship, agriculture, nutrition, gender equity, sanitation, and young adult enterprise. SNAP acts as a launching point for well-rounded, sustainable development in Sierra Leone, bringing resources and support for men and women like Dr. Bah and his team – men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping their people.
In spite of past difficulties, Dr. Bah has hope for the future. “If we can sit together, and decide together, that I will not forget,” he said.
With this goal at the heart of its mission, SNAP continues to partner with Dr. Bah, helping him restore the wounds of war in Sierra Leone. After years of struggling to help their communities with minimal resources, the people of Sierra Leone have a voice in the transformation of their nation.