| Jan 31, 2012
Gayah Kezele, Medical Teams International's Liberia Country Director, Dan Ward and I traveled to the Liberian district of Grand Cape Mount, a primarily Muslim region in western Liberia. We wanted to visit with staff and see a few of the clinics in which we work. On a nice road, the drive from Monrovia to the town of Senji in Grand Cape Mount took about one and a half hours. During the war, this was a ‘no-go’ area nine years ago. It is now safe and Medical Teams International is working throughout the district to support the majority of its clinics and health centers. Through a grant funded by the U.S. government, Medical Teams International is supporting 22 health facilities (20 clinics and 2 health centers). A clinic is the first point of contact when needing health care services to people in the community. A health center is the next step up which serves as a referral center for cases that can’t be treated at the clinic.
We first visited a clinic in the village of Karnga, with a population of 1,105 people. Once off the paved road, we drove over a rough, dirt road. We were on this road for about 30 minutes, surrounded by trees and shrubs on both sides until we came to a clearing. This clearing is Karnga. Being in Karnga was a bit surreal because we were completely isolated from the outside world. And yet in this remote setting, Medical Teams International is ensuring that health care services are available free of charge to the people of Karnga. We were greeted by the clinic Officer in Charge who gave us a tour of the small clinic. MTI supports the clinic and staff by supplementing with medicines; addressing issues contributing to poor health including HIV/AIDS; and providing training to improve service delivery. The Officer in Charge at the clinic said that if Medical Teams International was not involved in this project, the clinic would not be open. People in Karnga would have to travel long distances to the next major town to receive care. This clinic is not only saving livings, but is also improving the quality of life for the people living in Karnga.
We then traveled to Sinje to tour the health center that Medical Teams International is supporting. Sinje is the major town in this part of Grand Cape Mount, and the Sinje health center serves as the main referral facility for the surrounding villages. The Officer in Charge of the Sinje health center said, “the partnership with Medical Teams International is very important because Medical Teams International
provides medicines that supplements what the Liberian Ministry of Health provides. Their support makes it possible for us to provide free service to the population, as well as incentives to keep important staff working in the health center. We would not be able to continue our work at this level if it weren’t for Medical Teams International.” In our tour of the facility, we saw children with anemia and malaria from neighboring villages whose clinics are supported by Medical Teams International. The children were sent to the Sinje health center for a higher level of care. The work of our Liberia staff is making a significant difference in these communities. I was very impressed with the staff’s skill, commitment and passion for service.
One of our staff members, Kota, told me, “We established community committees in the villages where Christians and Muslims from the community meet together to address issues facing the community. The Christians are asked to pray to start the meetings. Then the Muslims are asked to close the meeting in prayer. Both groups see the advantages of working together as a unified group in order to address the health care issues facing their communities. Through the leadership of our Liberia office, there is a transformation taking place in the way the two religious groups view each other and show a dedicated willingness to work together. In a country like Liberia where national unity is the number one priority following many years of civil war, it’s good to know that Medical Teams International is contributing by building bridges in Grand Cape Mount. I should also say that with the hire and placement of Dan Ward in Africa, our new Africa Regional Director, we are building a unified Africa team that will provide greater support to our country directors, which will lead to greater effectiveness and opportunity.
You may ask what impressed me most on this trip? Without question, I’d have to say it is Medical Teams International’s African staff. We have amazing people on staff in Africa. They are committed to the mission of the agency and work tirelessly to fulfill that mission. They are risk-takers and innovators in very challenging environments. They understand what it means to ‘serve the least of these’ by treating people with respect and love. I learned much from our staff in Africa and I am humbled and privileged to work alongside such a high caliber of people. As the Africans say, God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.