Disorderly display of foodstuff on the sidewalks and on the road and the piston-like movement of commuters, coupled up with the sudden starts and stops by ‘poda-poda’ (mini bus) drivers, create the chaotic traffic gush for which Dan Street has become renowned.
Behind this busy street which stretches from the burnt out Eastend police station to Savage Square, sits Marbella one of the largest urban slums of the Capital Freetown.
From the top – the makeshift structures with pieces of metal jutting out from different angles presents a junkyard picture – awkwardly decorating the beautiful coastline.
These clumsily built sheds provide cover from rain and the other elements for the over 12,000 inhabitants in the locality.
One has to struggle through the human traffic in this permanently littered street, with the smell of rotten fruits mixed with cooked food rising to suffocating levels amidst the mountains of rubbish which seemed determined to match the heights of the houses to find the path which leads to the health clinic in this shanty settlement.
A run down building with flaking yellow paints houses the Marbella clinic, which is the only medical facility in the locality.
The predatory traders did not leave their vocation up along the main street – infact they are able represented near the clinic by peddlers with their array of medicines spread out to catch the patients and their visitors leaving or entering the clinic.
Inside the jam-packed clinic was a robust middle aged woman, Adama S. Conteh who is the nurse in charge of Maternal and Child Health.
Occupying a wooden chair in the observation room; Nurse Conteh explained that Malaria, Acute Respiratory Tract Infection and Diarrhea are the most commonly reported diseases.
She disclosed that “since the distribution of insecticide treated bed nets by the Ministry of Health, the report of malaria cases have lessened drastically.”
For those who are sick, the clinic charges a minimal service-fee of “Le 1000 for adults and Le 500 for children,” while “for those who cannot afford the service fee, we treat them and provide drugs for them as well” she said.
Nurse Conteh revealed that the medical facility is supplied with drugs once every two weeks by ‘Concern’ a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) which is supporting the clinic. Staff and patient relationship is arguably cordial, she noted, “they are well treated and they make full use of the clinic.”
Outside the clinic were several pregnant women waiting their turn to be treated.
Zainab Fofanah who is 11 months pregnant sat on a stool on the verandah of one of the shacks which happened to be the home of one of the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA), in the locality.
With a wrapper round her waist, gazing helplessly at the busy street Zainab explained why she is not making use of the community health facility.
“The attitude of these nurses is a big problem” she said.
To be a registered member of the clinic you have to buy a clinic card which cost Le 3,000 she explained and Le1,500 for any other visit.
Of late she said “because I have no money I do not go to the clinic that is why I come to the TBA because her service to me is free she is like a mother to me.”
Looking bitter Zainab stressed, “what bothers me most is the fact that priority is often given to those with money at the clinic.”