A force of nature, changing the odds for women in Sierra Leone

Meet Aisha Khadar, Executive Director of Khadarlis Global and nurse by trade. Khadarlis Global works to provide healthcare and sustainable development in Sierra Leone, a country that is known globally as stricken by war and poverty. But Aisha represents a different face of Sierra Leone—a member of the diaspora connected to an ancestral village and with the well-being of her compatriots at the heart of everything she does We at Maternova were blown away by Aisha’s passion and drive when we met with her last week. Having immigrated to the United States, Aisha returned to Sierra Leone after the civil war and used a Médecins Sans Frontières building in Jimmi (Bo district) to enhance a clinic. The clinic is an example of how a health system is built, or rebuilt from scratch. Aisha and her team started shipping goods for the clinic in containers, mostly compromised of donations, from basic medical supplies to the materials used to build the clinic itself. They even sent raw, reclaimed lumber, to be made into furniture for the clinic. Though aid agencies come and go and can make a huge difference while they are present, our bets are on the commitment of people like Aisha to rebuild health systems in Sierra Leone.

In a country where it is difficult to access sterilized medical equipment, non-expired drugs such as Tylenol and Aspirin let alone more advanced life-saving drugs such as oxytocin, vaccines, and condoms, an increase in medical services is critical. Some innovations at Maternova such as the ThermoSpot stick-on reusable thermo-indicator, rotary phone chargers, and solar powered headlamps could save the lives of many mothers and newborns across Sierra Leone. Though Aisha was interested in all of the innovations we showed her, it is not until she tests them out with her staff that we will know what will make the most sense in the Jimmi Bagbo clinic. To put the challenges in context, the clinic has no running water. That’s right—a clinic with no running water, serving 10 villages. The Khadarlis solution was to dig a well and then to set up a do-it-yourself water dispenser which allows the staff to wash hands and sterilize instruments.

Both Maternova and Khadarlis are located in Providence, Rhode Island, and we are exploring a partnership that would benefit both of our interests: saving lives! We look forward to expanding this partnership and hearing about Aisha’s work in Sierra Leone. She is there now, and planning a meeting with the Minister of Health, in the context of a growing Ebola epidemic.

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