MSF fieldworker and nurse, Chenai Mathabire, began working for MSF in her hometown of Harare. In May, she arrived back from her second international MSF assignment in Bo, Sierra Leone where she’s helped manage MSF’s ambulance service. This service is just one of the interventions that have helped MSF teams lower maternal mortality figures in the district by 61 percent.
“I arrived in rainy season in Sierra Leone when MSF was working to contain a cholera outbreak. The nurse I was replacing had ended her assignment more than one month before, but luckily detailed briefings and a thorough handover note from the previous nurse supervisor ensured I was well prepared for my work.
“I was responsible for the referral system, as well as a primary health centre that we use as an outpatient department for MSF’s Gondama Referral Centre and the Community Malaria Volunteers. These volunteers help provide free, community-based malaria treatment in villages, helping reduce the risk of people developing complications.
“Malaria and pneumonia affects children under five years of age disproportionally and they make up the majority of the patients we treat. We use our ambulances to transport complicated cases to Gondama. We also refer women in labour who face complications to Gondama in our ambulances. At the clinic in Bo, we provide antenatal and postnatal care.
“My biggest challenge was implementing the new ambulance system. It’s been very rewarding to walk into the paediatric wards and realise that some of these children were alive and recovering because our nurses were able to go and to pick them up from the clinic, and the provide care during the ride until they arrived at the hospital ward. I loved getting feedback from the delivery ward that the women we referred for obstetric complications through the ambulance service had safe and successful deliveries.
“MSF has been in Sierra Leone for more than ten years now and the population in Bo has great confidence in us. When I visited the clinics, I always got a sense that we and our local colleagues were greatly respected by the people attending the clinics. I believe this is because people know that our intervention helped save lives in the community – the lives of relatives or friends.”