2020 has seen much of the world come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Sierra Leone is no exception. With the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic still fresh in the collective memory, the country prepared themselves for another potentially deadly outbreak with the President confirming the country’s first case on 31st March and declaring a three-day lockdown. Since then additional control measures were implemented including nightly curfews and restrictions on inter-district travel.
Needless to say this had a big impact on the Surgical Training Programme. The planned intake of students in spring of 2020 was postponed and the local team made their best efforts to support our partner hospitals and enrolled students with supervision, which proved very challenging due to the inter-district travel restrictions.
However, from the end of June Sierra Leone began getting back to normal. The virus is still present but there has been a significant decrease in cases and an easing of restrictions (Sierra Leone has been ranked Level 1: low risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This means we have been able to re-start the Surgical Training Programme with seven new students starting in September and we are also beginning to welcome a small number of international trainers (thank you Lesley and Katja).
Although this is great news there is still much unknown about how COVID will impact Sub-Saharan Africa and the consequences of how it interacts with other diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malnutrition. With much of Europe still experiencing high rates of infection this means we can’t send as many international trainers to Sierra Leone to support the training of the students, graduates and continuous professional development courses. This is why we are looking into other options for some of the training courses e.g. digital books and online tutorials as a means to complement the training provided in-country; and of providing other essential resources for the Programme.
If you would like to support the Surgical Training Programme during these times of COVID-19, please donate what you are able. Thank you for your support.