In a small community health clinic in Matotoka township in the northern provinces of Sierra Leone, 25-year-old Kadiatu Bangura cradles her six-month-old baby, Gabriel, with pride. Nurse Aminata Conteh gives Gabriel four droplets of vitamin A, a crucial micronutrient that helps build strong immune systems and protect vision, especially for children under the age of five.
Vitamin A protects children from illness
Gabriel had always been an active and healthy baby, eager to explore his surroundings. However, everything changed one rainy night, just before we met Kadiatu and Gabriel at the health clinic.
That night, Kadiatu noticed unusual behaviors in Gabriel’s play and eating patterns. “He refused to sleep and showed signs of weakness, even refusing to breastfeed,” says Kadiatu. Overwhelmed with worry, she braved the heavy downpour the next morning to rush him to the clinic.
At the clinic, Nurse Phibian, one of the dedicated healthcare workers who had recently undergone specialized training in reproductive health and nutrition, promptly examined Gabriel. After measuring his height and weight, it became evident that Gabriel was due for his first dose of vitamin A.
Improving the health of mothers and their children
Helen Keller Intl is working to prioritize infant and maternal health in Sierra Leone. Currently one in every 20 women die during childbirth. Among mothers who successfully deliver, many struggle to provide their children with adequate nutrition and care while coping with the physical and emotional demands of childbirth.
For more than two decades, Helen Keller Intl has been working tirelessly in Sierra Leone, partnering with community health workers to help mothers improve their own lives and those of their babies. Mothers are encouraged to visit their local health facility every six months as their baby grows. They learn about reproductive health, hygiene practices, complementary feeding and family planning. Their children receive immunizations, vitamin A supplements, deworming medication and other essential interventions.
We are pleased we can provide routine vitamin A supplementation, which contributes to preventing common blindness, reducing child mortality rates, and ensuring healthy growth for mothers and babies.Nurse Phibian Thoronka
Nurse Phibian Thoronka, a community health officer responsible for more than 17 catchment communities that supports a population of more than 11,000. She is pleased with the changes that have happened thanks to this Comic Relief funded initiative. “We are pleased we can provide routine vitamin A supplementation, which contributes to preventing a common form of blindness, reducing child mortality rates, and ensuring healthy growth for mothers and babies.”
Building a Brighter Future
Gabriel was swiftly treated, and within an hour, the cheerful boy began to perspire normally as he resumed playing. The treatments that Kadiatu and her baby received were completely free of charge, made possible through a joint initiative funded by Comic Relief and implemented by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with Helen Keller.
“I am happy to see my boy regain his strength and return to his normal, active self,” says Kadiatu, beaming with relief. Gabriel is the youngest of Kadiatu’s three children, and she has faced numerous difficulties in providing for her growing family.
After Gabriel received his treatment, it was time for Kadiatu to participate in a “Woman-to-Woman talk” session. Led by Nurse Phibian, the session equipped Kadiatu with valuable knowledge about caring for her children, improving her sexual and reproductive health, and preventing unwanted pregnancies. The nurse also talked to Kadiatu about the numerous family planning options she has available in case she would like to access these.
“I have learned so much from the health workers here,” explains Kadiatu. “They have taught me about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, immunization, and complementary feeding for my child, and how to practice safer sex and plan my pregnancies.” As Kadiatu stepped out of the clinic that evening, she felt a wave of hope and envisioned a future in which her own son would one day become a skilled doctor and offer healing to others.
You can help mothers like Kadiatu build brighter futures for their families.