By: Kadiatu Lamrana Jalloh
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a prominent physician, lecturer, and specialist in infectious diseases, recently spent four days in Bo district as part of the National Girls Summit, focusing on adolescent girls’ education, empowerment, and celebrating the Girl Child Day.
Dr. Kitaka, a senior lecturer at Makerere University, a paediatrician, and an Adolescent Medicine specialist, provides health policy and technical advice to various advisory boards. She established the 1st General Adolescent Health Care clinic at Makerere University and Mulago in Uganda in May 2003. She has authored several books, including “The Value of HPV Vaccine,” aimed at educating children in schools.
In an interview with Awoko Newspaper, Dr. Kitaka shared her thoughts on Sierra Leone, her experiences, and the empowerment of girls in both Sierra Leone and Uganda.
How has your experience in Sierra Leone been so far?
So far, so good. I have been welcomed and supported in my work. I arrived on the 30th of September, and I was pleasantly surprised by the mode of transport to Freetown – the boat ride on the Sea Coach during a heavy thunderstorm. I feel welcomed and at home in Sierra Leone and am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with hardworking and resilient people. I have had the incredible experience of seeing young people in action and taking charge of their future during the National Girls Summit. I believe the future is bright for Sierra Leone.
What were your expectations when coming to Sierra Leone?
I was optimistic and excited, but also nervous about interacting with people I had never worked with.
What are your favourite Sierra Leonean foods that you have enjoyed so far?
My favorite food remains prawns 🍤, and I particularly enjoyed peanut stew with chicken and cassava. It reminded me of home-cooked meals in Kampala.
What were you expecting to see in Sierra Leone?
Honestly, I didn’t have any specific expectations because I enjoy surprises when I travel. I like to explore and appreciate new places I visit.
Is there anything in the language that you will take home with you?
I’ve learned “Wetin na u name?” and phrases like “pikin girl” and “pikin boy.”
What is it like to be an influencer for young girls in Uganda?
My best memories are when mothers send me videos of their little girls wearing white clinical coats and saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a Paediatrician like Dr. Sabrina Kitaka.” I trust that they will follow their dreams.
Are there any girls in positions of innovation and leadership in Uganda?
Uganda, known as the Pearl of Africa, boasts the beauty of its landscape, favourable weather, and, most importantly, the beauty of its people. Empowering the girl child has made significant strides, with women holding prominent positions in the country. Our current Prime Minister and Vice President are women, and our First Lady is a prominent figure who has inspired many girls and women. The Queen of my Kingdom of Buganda is also inspiring, along with academic leaders, musicians, and women in the religious circles. Our government strongly supports and enables women, although challenges like teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence still exist. We appreciate the potential of equality and equity.
I am grateful to the WHO Country Office for giving me the opportunity to work on this project and appreciate the support of my colleagues Dr. Ibrahim Kamara and Dr. Innocent Nuwagira for their invaluable contribution.
The Accelerated Action for the Health and Wellbeing of Adolescents and Young People in Sierra Leone is a call to action from the School and Adolescent Health Program of the Ministry of Health, aimed at providing comprehensive healthcare services for all boys and girls aged 10-24 years. There has been progress, but more needs to be done. HPV vaccines are available in Sierra Leone for school-going girls aged 10 years, and awareness about this important vaccine needs to be raised.
As a Paediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Specialist advocating for Global Health and Equity in Healthcare Access, I feel grateful and privileged to be part of the community working to change our continent for future generations. I appreciate the passion and commitment of the young people I’ve met in Sierra Leone and their genuine kindness and caring nature. Thank you, Kadija.KLJ/23/10/2023