Breaking entrenched barriers to become MP far away from home


By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

In the suburbs of Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone, people of all ages and titles, including from the surrounding villages, trooped in small groups to the community barray (hall) at Ngolahun village, Peje Bongre chiefdom, for what seemed to be a very important meeting.


That was Constituency 010 and the meeting was about politics. The Kailahun Women In Governance Network (KWiGN), with support from Irish Aid and SEND Sierra Leone, was behind the organization of the meeting to present a woman candidate to the people for the position of Member of Parliament for the constituency come 2023 national elections.

The woman, Zainab Kama Braima, actually contested for the same position in the 2018 national elections as an Independent candidate after she was denied symbol under her Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).


“We fought for a woman (Zainab) to become Member of Parliament for this constituency but we did not succeed. Instead, the SLPP gave the symbol to a man and you (the people) voted for him. We respect your decision. However, our candidate did not lose and that’s why we are presenting her again. We are not waiting until 2023; the work starts now,” said Theresa Satta Garber, Secretary General of KWiGN, while explaining the purpose of the meeting. KWiGN is a consortium of 106 women groups with a membership of over 5400 women across the 14 chiefdoms of Kailahun district.


Zainab’s candidacy in the 2018 elections attempted to break very strong traditional, tribal and regional barriers that have shackled the politics of Sierra Leone for decades.

Firstly, she’s the first female in the history of Peje Bongre chiefdom to contest for the MP position; the men considered that as an affront. Secondly, she’s not a native of the chiefdom and doesn’t speak their language and, thirdly, she hailed from the Northern Region of Sierra Leone. The people considered her as a stranger; despite being the wife of their son.


“The odds were literally against me,” recalled Zainab. “I was insulted and humiliated. I faced utter discrimination as if I was not a Sierra Leonean. But I stood firm to prove a point. I feel no wounds and bear no grudges. I think the mistake they (the people) made was to allow their son to marry a Loko woman (laughed). And I am proud to say I am a Loko.”


Inspired by this experience, Zainab’s determination is to ensure her footprints are all over the chiefdom to which she will proudly point come 2013.

She has constructed a bridge in Jui community while a community health centre in Foindu Mawei and a Barry in Fowaya are under construction. She is also supporting eight community health centres in both Peje Bongre and Penguia chiefdoms with essential drugs and other medical items: in Ngolahun, Pujehun, Mamboma, Grima, Gbahama, Woroma, Sandaru and Manowa.

In addition, Fowaya and Jui communities have come together to do a self-help project on swamp rice cultivation with support from Zainab.


Mid this week, Zainab and her husband visited all communities in order to ascertain the status and progress of the various projects and engaged with the people to jointly plan the next phase of the work after the raining season.

“This is our community; whether we win or lose we have an obligation to give back to help develop these places and ensure a better life for our people,” said the husband Keikura Braima, an international civil servant who has been very supportive of his wife’s ambition.

SLPP patron

The couple have been married for 30 years now and have three children, two girls and a boy. During the 2018 elections, Keikura said he traveled about 25 times from abroad to attend and support campaign activities of her wife back home.

“I actually presented her officially to my people (and my party the SLPP), and kindly requested them to support her candidacy,” explained Keikura.

Describing himself as a Patron of the SLPP and up-to-date with his membership dues (together with his wife) Keikura claimed the awarding of the party’s symbol for constituency 010 was unfair.

 “We were disappointed, but that will not change our membership. We are SLPP today, tomorrow and forever. My wife decided to go independent to prove a point,” he said.


Adding to Zainab’s hopes of becoming the next MP of Constituency 010 is the Paramount Chief of Peje Bongre chiefdom, Pejehunkpoh Baion, who has been impressed with her engagement with the people after the 2018 elections.

“As a development oriented leader I am more than happy with Zainab’s development interventions in my chiefdom,” said PC Baion. “Yes she did not get the party’s symbol in 2018 and she faced a lot of challenges when she decided to contest as an independent, but I want to assure her that we’ll not allow any unfair means of awarding symbols in my chiefdom come 2023.”

He added: “Going forward, I think we should encourage all political parties to always engage with the chiefs, as custodians and the people’s representatives, before awarding symbols to potential candidates. We know our people better than anyone else.”


For Zainab, the 2018 elections was an eye-opener.

“We will not have understood the deep rooted issues if we had not come in,” she noted. “Some things need to change. They should not remain the same. Women don’t have power in this constituency. It’s a taboo for a woman to aspire for power here. We need to change that.”

A private entrepreneur in the construction sector, Zainab was born in Kalangba, Makeni, Bombali District, Northern Sierra Leone.

“I have a vision and a program for this constituency. I will not abandon that because I didn’t win an election,” she said.

SIERRA LEONE: Employing SALT approach to prevent disease outbreak in border communities

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

A five-day special training of trainers on the SALT approach was conducted
at the GIZ office to prepare and equip field staff

Sierra Leone shares more than 50 porous border crossing points with neighbouring Liberia and Guinea, most of which are walkable distances. So it was naturally easy for the decade-long rebel war to spill over from Liberia in 1991 and the dreaded Ebola disease to spread from Guinea in 2014. And the entry point for both calamities was Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone.

The health system in border communities in Kailahun District, as with other remote communities in Sierra Leone, is challenged with lack of capacity, resources and health personnel. Unmonitored border exchanges sometimes come with social problems, including the easy spread of communicable diseases. Poor surveillance system in these communities is also a challenge and relationship building is not flowing because of gaps within the health system.

To overcome these challenges in remote border communities in Kailahun, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) are supporting the District Health Management Team (DHMT) in Kailahun to implement the project called ‘Community Empowerment to Participate in Service Delivery’ within communities using the SALT approach. The SALT approach (Stimulate and Strengthen, Appreciate, Listen and Learn and Transfer what you have learnt) basically targets mindsets of community people and reinforces their roles and responsibilities with regards to their health systems.

 (A) Shows the connections between Gueckedou, where the outbreak started and all other districts in the region using a gravity model. Freetown is included to highlight the different strengths of connections that result from the pull of a large city. (B) Shows second degree adjacent districts. (C) Shows the total distribution of cases as of March 17th, 2016. Blue indicates areas with no cases. Photo credit: Scientific Report

The DHMT in Kailahun, is implementing the project with SEND Sierra Leone as key partner, based on the latter’s wealth of experience working on health related projects in the embattled district in the past decade. The project is targeting seven (7) chiefdoms in Kailahun district and thirty-two (32) remote communities in the border areas.

“We believe that if we capacitate and improve on the surveillance system in these communities, they will be able to take ownership and respond to some of the health and social issues that may arise. By so doing we have the vision to support the DHMT in building up a resilient health system to detect together early enough severe epidemic diseases, so that people can live a better life,” said Steven S. Bundor, SEND Sierra Leone Program Officer, Kailahun District.

He added: “Our approach is very clear and so we believe we can be able to have sustainable achievement because we are engaging the community people to raise awareness on health issues around them that prevent development.”

The SALT approach recognizes that communities have capacities to cope with adversity and can take steps to improve their health, however difficult their situation may be. It is rooted in the belief that enabling communities participate in health design, planning, and management leads to increased ownership, accountability and impact, and is arguably the best way to bring about changes for improved health service delivery.

The approach draws on a wide range of participatory learning and action techniques and tools that are designed to channel participants’ ideas and efforts into a structured process of analysis, learning, and action planning, with the overall aim of addressing communities’ health challenges and enabling them take their own initiatives to improve health service delivery.

A five-day special training of trainers on the SALT approach was conducted at the GIZ office from 20th May- 26th May 2019 to prepare and equip field staff, who will be directly involved in the implementation of the project in the communities, with the requisite skills and knowledge.

Participants were from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and staff from SEND Sierra Leone as well as from the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL) working in Kailahun District.

According to one of the trainers, Ute Papkalla from the German Institute for Medical Mission e. V. – Difäm, the SALT methodology tries to help communities to reflect on their own strength, assets, and resources and use them for improvement of their own situations. She said it will also make them more independent from external help and make them more the drivers in their path towards better health. 

The methodology has a number of instruments developed out of experiences in Malawi, which started there about 8 years ago with the first project, and carried on in Guinea. All Projects were working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“From these experiences we continue developing the instruments that are being used and we expect the trainers to go into communities and select community facilitators who themselves will be trained. Those community facilitators are usually not so much educated but should be able to respond to certain criteria. For example, they should be acknowledged by the community, respected and be able to speak well. They are supposed to be the persons who will help their communities in thinking about their strength and deciding what actions they can take by their own means,” she explained.

Sierra Leone: Persons With Disability demand inclusion, care & respect

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

A recent citizens’ perception survey on access to services for Persons With Disability (PWDs) reveals that majority of public structures in Sierra Leone are non-friendly to this category of the population. As a result, it remains a huge challenge for PWDs to access essential social services including health, education and social protection.

Ekundayo Scotland: disability is a health and human rights issue

Conducted by SABI (an accountability programme funded by UKaid and delivered by a consortium of international organizations led by Christian Aid) in June and July 2018, the survey targeted selected chiefdoms in the Western and Eastern regions of the country and gives a general overview of citizens’ perception of service delivery in health, education and social protection with particular attention to PWDs across Sierra Leone.

The findings particularly show that the majority of PWDS cannot access services provided by health institutions and structures across the Western and Eastern regions mainly because the facilities are not disable-friendly. It also gives indications of how various factors contribute to this lack of access to services and their consequences.

Out of 8,420 respondents interviewed across 30 wards in 20 chiefdoms and 5 districts on their access to health and other facilities,10% were PWDs. 59% of respondents in Kailahun District said health facilities“are difficult to reach”, citing bad roads, lack of transportation and affordability of transport cost as some of the reasons. Kailahun District has probably the worst road network in the entire country, especially during the rains. Worse, most catchment communities have to walk long distances to access health facilities.

However, respondents in Kenema District said they don’t encounter much difficulty in reaching health facilities but 63% said the facilities are not disable-friendly, and that cuts across health facilities in the country.

For the Western Area (both urban and rural),a key challenge is absence of health staff at facilities during respondents visits for treatment. 63% of respondents said “there was no one to talk to or ask for information” when they visited. 11% of the respondents were PWDs. The same can be said for Kono district.

Hawa Koroma: it’s humiliating to be carried like a baby

According to the United Nations, over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability; in Sierra Leone 1.3% of the population are disabled (SSL 2015 PHC). In 2011 the country passed the Persons with Disability Act, which aims “…to prohibit discrimination against persons with disability, achieve equalisation of opportunities for persons with disability and to provide for other related matters”. To what extent the Act has been popularized and implemented remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, at the District Council Hall in Kenema District last week, a workshop was organized exclusively for PWDs and line ministries by SEND Sierra Leone with support from SABI, UNDP, and Irish Aid to share a Policy Paper developed by SEND on PWDs’ access to health, education and social protection services from the citizens’ perception survey. The workshop deliberated on the survey findings and developed action plans and recommendations going forward.

But the highlight of the workshop was the outbursts of the participants. Labelling disability as a health and human rights issue, Ekundayo Scotland, Commissioner for the National Commission for Persons Living With Disability, Eastern Region, said he was disappointed and discouraged that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation was not paying due attention to the plight of PWDs.

“They should be the first Government ministry to be concerned about PWDs. Because what we are going through is all as a result of poor health; health in terms of polio and other diseases. Our situation is so serious that it needs immediate attention,” fumed Ekundayo.

He said Sierra Leone cannot achieve the sustainable development goals without actively participating in ensuring that there’s equality, empowerment and inclusion for PWDs. And this, he said, will be realised “when you give affordable and quality health care to PWDs, when you give quality education, and social services”.

Moreover, Ekundayo lamented the issue of society creating added disability to worsen their situation.

“To us, disability is now a second nature; but what disturbs us the most is when the environment or society creates disability for us.The real problem is when the environment keeps reminding you that you are disabled. Let me share this with you: I wanted to have a haircut yesterday but I couldn’t use the roads because construction was ongoing. Non-disable persons were able to use the road because they have free access, but I couldn’t because there’s no provision made for us. So automatically I learnt that I was disabled,” explained Ekundayo, adding that Government and its partners need to invest in infrastructure that will take into account PWDs.

Similarly, Hawa Koroma, Chairlady for PWDs, Kenema District,narrated her ordeal to attend the workshop.

“My child escorted me here before he would go to school. I have to be lifted up like a baby. I felt embarrassed and humiliating.Some people laughed at us. It’s so shameful,” explained Hawa.

Furthermore, Ekundayo called for a speedy review of the Disability Act of 2011 which he claimed has many loose ends.

“In Part 5 of the Act, there are privileges for PWDs. For example, education, but this privilege is only for tertiary education. What about primary and secondary education? Do we just jump into tertiary education? Thank God the Free Quality Education is here, but it needs to be incorporated into the Act. Therefore, we need to review the Act to make it more comprehensive for the rights, welfare and protection of PWDs,” he said.

No matter their situation now or wherever they are, PWDs need our attention, care and protection, said Joseph Ayamga, Country Director of SEND Sierra Leone.

“If we want to be better as a society, we cannot plan and develop without the inclusion, consideration and respect for the skills, competences and contributions of persons with disability. There is not a single individual in this world without a disability. Some of us lack commonsense, some of us have health problems, some are morally immature and many more of us are the problems that make a country like Sierra Leone suffer poverty and marginalization. Those are our disabilities, but we have failed to consider them. Why use the disability of other people to discriminate them?” said Joseph.

He urged PWDs to rise up and stop begging on the streets and to hold the government accountable to provide the opportunities to empower disabled people.

Among the key action plans adopted during the workshop, were the review and popularization of the Disability Act 2011; establishment of disability desks in all MDAs; construction and rehabilitation of schools and health centers should be disable-friendly; inclusion of PWDs in Facility Management Committees (FMCs) and School Management Committees (SMCs);and inclusion of PWDs in all committees at district and chiefdom levels.

Strengthening health service delivery in rural communities

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Twenty-eight year-old Nancy Amara arrived at the newly constructed Community Health Post (CHP) in Dodo Kortuma, Luawa Chiefdom, Kailahun District by 7am in great pain. Exactly one hour thirty minutes later she delivered her third girl child with relative ease.


NANCY: first patient at the newly constructed CHP at Dodo Kortuma, Kailahun District

A couple of hours later on Saturday, 23rd June 2018, the CHP was officially commissioned and Nancy Amara would be recorded as not only the first patient to be treated at the new health center, but also the first woman to give birth there.

I met her at the maternity ward, seated on the edge of the bed and watching over her little sleeping angel purposely wrapped in blue cloth. Her other child, 3, stood beside her.

“I feel happy and relieved,” she said, smiling. “I was worried they would not admit me since the health center was not yet officially opened by the authorities. I thank God, however, I delivered safely.”

Built in 1964 the original health center, which was in a crumbling state, was demolished to give place to the new CHP, the construction of which started in 2017. Constructed by SEND Sierra Leone with funds from the Zochonis Charitable Trust Fund through Christian Aid, the Dodo Kortuma health post lies about 14 rugged miles from Kailahun town. It is expected to provide health services to seven surrounding communities with a total catchment population of 5,716, about 1000 of who are Under-5s.

Accessing the health post is mostly by foot for the majority of the population. Those who can afford do so by commercial motorbikes (Okadas) and the cost varies depending on how close or far away one resides. But from Kailahun town to Dodo Kortuma the motorbike fare is about US$10 (Seventy to eighty thousand Leones) for both ways.

Having a health post is one thing, accessing it is entirely another; noted Augustine Fayia Jusu- the Community Health Assistant (CHA) attached to the facility.

Yet Augustine is equally happy the center was completed during his time as the CHA.

“I am delighted that the CHP was commissioned during my tenure. I supported the building contractors and the implementing organisation and together we have done it,” said Augustine.

Augustine took me on a conducted tour of the health facility, showing me the good and the bad. The Dodo Kortuma CHP has about 17 rooms and 10 functional beds, the largest I have seen in all the chiefdoms I have visited in Kailahun District. There is a Delivery ward, Antenatal Care ward, Outpatient ward and a reception area. Outside the building there is an incinerator and a toilet.

However, Augustine was concerned about challenges with access to water and electricity.

“For electricity, we can understand that it’s a national problem but there’s no way a health clinic can run efficiently without water,” said Augustine.

The water well at the front compound of the health post is non-functional, so the community depends on nearby streams for water. At this season of the year it is not feasible to dig water wells.

There is also no placenta pit at the moment, but Augustine said they are engaging the community to help with location and man power.

Other challenges include lack of furniture and shelves to keep drugs; refrigerator to preserve vaccines; and staff accommodation and mobility.

According to Augustine, the CHP is entitled to quarterly supply of drugs from the District medical stores but sometimes go beyond four months without supplies.

Sierra Leone reportedly has the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the world, with 1,360 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. One in every 17 women bear the risk of dying during labour, according to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

SEND Sierra Leone Program Officer for Kailahun District, Steven Sahr Bundor, speaking during the commissioning of the CHP, urged the community people, especially women, to make good use of the facility.

“The health center is for you; so visit it even when you are not sick; especially you pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and your children under five years old,” said Steven.

Apart from also urging the health staff to equally take good care of the facility, Steven further called on the DHMT to fulfil their own part by ensuring the provision of necessary equipment, drugs and furniture for the CHP. He admonished the Facility Management Committee (FMC) to take ownership of the health post together with the Village Development Committee (VDC) to see that the CHP is run properly to provide efficient health services to the communities and the Ward Development Committee (WDC) together with the District Health Management Team (DHMT) to ensure the sustainability of the structure.

The Chairman of the Kailahun District Council and his deputy officially unveiled the Dodo Kortuma Community Health Post following a short traditional ceremony of statements and celebration involving the members of the community and its surroundings.

Meanwhile, Nancy said she will be an example to her colleague women and she will encourage them to visit the CHP regularly.


Sierra Leone: APC supporter raped in Kailahun

Reports from Ngynahum village, Kailahun district Eastern Sierra Leone say a middle aged woman and a supporter of the opposition APC party has been gang raped by 5 men allegedly supporting the ruling SLPP party.

Several women’s rights groups in Sierra Leone have condemed this act of barbarism against an innocent woman.

Also, over 3,000 APC supporters have fled Kono to Masingbi to escape political violence.

“I must say I’m ashamed of how far people can go in the name of party politics” a rights activist said today in Freetown.

“The continued violence and abuse being perpetrated by some supporters of the SLPP against APC supporters and people from the North is unprecedented,” said a police officer.

He said there is fear everywhere and that the perpetration of acts of violence is happening with impunity.

“We will try our best, but to control the situation the SLPP executive must act now to stop the supporters,” he noted, adding that everyone is on edge.

Sierra Leone: Making a case for Kailahun District

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

There’s now a loose saying among Sierra Leoneans that any menace that starts in Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone, will definitely spread across every region of the country.

From the first gun shot in Bomaru, Kailahun District, in 1991 the decade-long rebel war reached every corner of Sierra Leone leaving an unprecedented trail of destruction of lives and property in the country’s history.
At the peak of the war Kailahun District recorded the most deaths. The infamous Slaughter House, where hundreds of innocent civilians including women and children were reportedly butchered in cold blood and in broad day light, still stands there at the center of the town. The stench of decayed human blood still fills the atmosphere around the war relic.

From the first officially confirmed Ebola case in Kpondu village, Kissi Teng chiefdom, Kailahun District on 24th/25th May, 2014, the EVD touched every district in Sierra Leone, except perhaps Bonthe Island which, for reasons of ‘remoteness and God’s mercy’ according to the District Health Superintendent (DHS) there at the time, didn’t record any positive case during the outbreak.
At the height of the Ebola outbreak in late June-July 2014, according to WHO, ore than 80 new Ebola cases were reported per week in Kailahun; and more than 50 bodies were buried in just 12 days in makeshift graves close to the Ebola treatment center. ‘And this number did not include people who died in their homes’.
Guilty by location?

But how do the people of Kailahun feel about the fact that they have literally been the launch pad for two of the biggest disasters to befall Sierra Leone in the last three decades? Hon PC Mohamed Sama Kailondo Banya IV doesn’t agree it is misfortune.
“Unlike other border districts, Kailahun is strategically located between Liberia and Guinea,” he said. “The rebel war started in Liberia in the early 80s; naturally, because of proximity, it spilled over to Kailahun. Similarly, the EVD started in Guinea in Guéckédou, and spread to border villages with easy and walkable distances from Kissi Teng Chiefdom. Naturally again, you know it will eventually cross over to Kailahun. And at that time there were no laws or restrictions against cross border travels.”
Having been through all of that, one did understand why the people of Kailahun remained timid in the event of clocking past 42 days without recording any new Ebola case. The day had passed by quietly as just another day in that episode of their chequered history. Outside on the red dusty streets there were pockets of people here and there. The general mood was one of a people in great pain. A people hurt by their own misfortune and years and years of neglect by successive governments.

In the 2007 Presidential run-off election the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairwoman, Dr. Chrisriana Thorpe, announced the cancellation of results from a total of 477 polling stations in Kailahun, a controversial decision that sealed the defeat of the then ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)-led government and their arch rivals the All People’s Congress claiming victory. In our political Geography, Kailahun is regarded as one of the strongholds of the SLPP.
Conversely, in the just concluded presidential run-off election (31st March, 2018) the 134, 064 votes from Kailahun were the decisive quantity that handed victory to the SLPP after 10 years in opposition and the APC losing out.

With all the troubles this district has been through, the people of Kailahun should not be searching for development; it is development itself that should find them.
And the road to that development has come as close as Pendembu (work is in progress), only 17 horrible miles more to the district headquarter town of Kailahun.