Lead Community Health Officer - Bimkolo Health Centre
Sierra Leone has a population of over 6 million people, yet there is only an estimated 235 Sierra Leonean doctors serving the population. As a country, Sierra Leone has experienced a devastating war which lasted over a decade and in 2014-2015, the country was hit with the outbreak of Ebola which caused the deaths of almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone and led to an even greater decrease in qualified and trained health professionals as it is estimated that over 200 doctors and nurses died during the outbreak.
Andrew Sesaye is a Community Health Officer at the Bimkolo Health Centre in the Bombali district and he is part of the REACH: RCGP Education for Advancing Community Health project, which builds on the pilot Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) work that the partnership delivered in 2017.
When I was a young boy, my uncle became very ill with severe stomach pain. There was a community health officer who came to examine his illness, treated him and my uncle got well. Since then I have admired the work that community health workers do. How they are able to help patients who are sick become healthy and I wanted to do the same. This particular health worker helped me to get the education and training that I needed to become a health officer myself. I am now the lead community health officer at the Bimkolo Health Centre, in the Bombali district of Sierra Leone.
Last year, community health officers at the health centre received training on hypertension by Dr Padwan and now we do more hypertension screenings for the patients who attend our facility, many of whom are young and often are not aware that they have high blood pressure until we have screened them. Recently, I saw a woman who was only in her 40s and had a stroke. She had travelled 3 miles to reach our health centre. Due to the care she received, she is showing great improvement and can now walk without support.
With the support and training provided by the REACH: RCGP Education for Advancing Community Health project, we are able to offer a variety of health services to the local community. The most common conditions we treat are hypertension, malaria and urinary tract infections.
As a community health officer, every day is exciting and dynamic. Being in this field has taught me a lot, and I am able to share learnings with colleagues. The best thing about being a community health officer, is the fact that I am able to help my family members. If my child gets sick, I will be able to treat them and that is a huge plus for me.