“We are suffering, we are neglected” sounded over twenty times as I listened to my tape recording of our visit to Charlotte one of the hill top villages at the foot of the peninsula mountains overlooking the City Freetown.
In June 2007 the then Minister of Health Abattor Thomas officially opened a four room main complex with two apartments and a toilet built by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) to serve as a health centre for the nearly 100 people living in Charlotte and Bathurst village.
Modu Conteh the Village Head told Awoko “they promised that they would send nurses and the doctor promised solar panels for electricity.” But all this they promised after the August 2007 elections. The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) administration lost the elections and with that all the promises went out of the window.
The people of Charlotte now have to walk six miles to get to the nearest health centre in Regent village. This has caused untold sufferings. Last January Aminata Conteh lost her baby as she was being transported in a wheel barrow to Regent village. She demonstrated (pictured) what it was like for us being bumped along the rocky footpath while suffering severe labour pains. She could not continue the narration as wells of water gathered in her eyes and her voice broke down.
Mammy Babaro proudly displayed her certificate when she was trained as a Traditional Birth Attendant on the 5th November 2001. She is now the only TBA in the village. The other died about a month ago. Mammy said she can only help and when there are complicated cases they have to be ‘wheelbarrowed’ to Regent. “Most often they die on the way”.
“This is what happens to most of our sick people” the village head Modu Conteh revealed. Especially those who fall severely sick in the night – look at the road” she pointed, adding “how can you carry someone in the dead of the night along this road” she lamented. “We are suffering” she said.
Another method of transporting the severely sick is to put them in a hammock. This again was demonstrated for us by some elderly men in the village.
Last Wednesday a Nurse called Mary from Leicester road visited the community. The villagers say this was after they had raised the issue with their Member of Parliament. They disclosed that the Nurse said she could not stay in the community because the beds in the hospital quarters did not have mattresses. After looking at the equipment and medicines supplied in 2007 Nurse Mary is quoted as saying that the only viable medicine in the store was formaldehyde which is used to embalm dead bodies and bandages. There were also surgical gloves, a single baby cot a hurricane lamp and scales to weigh children.
The villages said the Nurse demanded that they in the community should pay her and they should also employ a caretaker. Thieves had made several attempts to steal from the health centre passing through the roof. But this was not the real problem for the villagers. Attempts to farm had proved unsuccessful because the heavy rains washed the little gardens made by the villagers. They asked “where does government expect us to come up with the money – as poor as we are.”
The last medical intervention in Charlotte was done by a team of Cuban doctors some six months ago. “They treated about 86 people on that day and they gave some panadol and worm medicines saying that a lot of people suffered from worms” explained Davidson Showers a resident.
“The building is here and we have taken good care of it what we want done now is for the government to come in and send nurses and a doctor and medicines so that people can be treated here. There are two apartments for hospital staff so they can stay here” Modu Conteh pleaded.
Until the government makes serious interventions in these places the people of Charlotte will remain to be a forgotten statistics with no record of how many are born or how many die – and they are less than a dozen miles from the official residence of the President.