New life for Nixon Memorial Hospital
In 2016, with the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we began sending books to Sierra Leone to support the country as it rebuilds after the devastating Ebola crisis which killed nearly 4,000 people between 2014 and 2016.
Sierra Leone’s health infrastructure was weak before the epidemic. It was significantly weakened by a ten year civil war from 1991 to 2002 and Ebola has weakened it further. Many medical professionals lost their lives to the disease.
To aid the country’s recovery, we have had a particular focus on sending medical books to practising professionals and medical students. 6,000 of those books were received by Practical Tools Initiative (PTI), a charity which specialises in supporting post-conflict communities. In this blog, PTI explains how the books we provide are helping a major medical nursing college train the nurses of tomorrow.
In April 2016 we began a partnership with Book Aid International with the aim of delivering high-quality textbooks to extremely deprived post-war and post-Ebola health and educational institutions and prisons in Sierra Leone. Within weeks of signing the partnership agreement, we received the first consignment of over 6,000 books. 1,000 of those books reached the Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema, Eastern Sierra Leone.
The hospital has a fascinating history. In the 1930s a British missionary and his wife were stationed at Segbwema, Eastern Sierra Leone. Word spread that the minister’s wife was a nurse. People started to come to their house for help and their veranda became a clinic.
It was around 1950 when Alderman John Nixon, previously Lord Mayor of Newcastle, approached the officers of the Methodist Missionary Society to offer to donate money for medical services to a needy place in the developing world in memory of his wife who had recently died. The need to significantly develop the hospital in Segbwema was suggested and a large amount of money was provided and that’s how the highly commended nursing school also came into being.
“The hospital was widely acclaimed throughout Sierra Leone, but then in 1990 came the devastation and pointless destruction of the 10 years of war. There was massive destruction and the staff had to flee for their lives into the bush.”
Ever since the war, the hospital has been struggling. It has been severely underfunded, even though the nursing school produces over 75% of nurses for the entire eastern region of the country.
In 2015 the government told the hospital management that unless they improved their library with modern books and computers, the nursing school would be closed. This was a very serious threat and the hospital management had no means of replenishing the nursing school’s library with contemporary books and computers. We have been working with the hospital for just over a year. It was at this point that we approached Book Aid International.
We made no promise to the hospital committee until the books and computers were at our centre in Kenema. Book Aid International provided the books and we sourced the computers from other places.
A few weeks after delivering the 1,000 textbooks, five computers and medical equipment, we sent out four UK medical volunteers (three nurses and one IT expert) to provide teaching support to the nursing school and help set-up their IT system and medical equipment.
The textbook support from Book Aid International was a reprieve for the nursing school, and without doubt, the hospital itself. All 260 students training to be nurses will no doubt benefit from them!
We would like to thank Practical Tools Initiative for highlighting the Nixon Memorial Hospital’s story and we wish all the nurses studying there all the best!
We are proud to have supplied over 91,000 books to Sierra Leone, many of which are helping health professionals get back to work following the Ebola crisis. Healthcare professionals have a particular need for up to date books and often face special barriers in accessing them as they are very expensive. We are working to reach more health professionals as part of our Vision for 2020. Find out more and how you can get involved using the links below.