Sunday, January 21, 2007

Global Action Foundation funds National Organization for Welbody Malnutrition Program

John Daniel Kelly, a 4th year medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, started Global Action Foundation (GAF), a United States 501c3 non-profit organization. GAF funds initiatives that alleviate global poverty and improve human development. Mr. Kelly and Dr.Barrie, who is a native Sierra Leonean, began an nNGO in Sierra Leone called the National Organization for Welbody (NOW). The video interview takes place in Dr.Barrie's office at St.John of God Catholic Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. Dr.Barrie interviews a woman whose two children are suffering from severe malnutrition and her struggle to find free health care.

Read the letter from Dan Kelly to his Medical College Dean, Dr.Kuperman, for a sense of the reality of extreme poverty in Sierra Leone today.

"Tonight I boarded a plane at Freetown International Airport. Its paritally lit welcome sign reminded me of the game show - wheel of fortune - while reminding me that this exhibition is not a game. This is poverty. The stark image exemplifies the basic problems of a country ranked at the end of both Human Development and Poverty Indices. Sierra Leone's people are poor while its land is rich and government is corrupt. "Blood Diamond" is a newly released movie about Sierra Leone's 1991 to 2002 war, but did Hollywood and Leo portray events accurately? "Yes," says the Sierra Leonean seated to my right. The movie presents war, devastation, corruption, poverty; it presents Sierra Leone's problems. Anyone tired of hearing about problems? Let's talk about solutions, or should I say - the search for solutions.

Dr. Barrie left, Samantha center, Dan right

Dr. Barrie, Samantha and Dan

In Sierra Leone, the search began while working in internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, community medicine, public health, and a TB / leprosy control center within both governmental and non-governmental health systems. I remember sweat pouring down my face while inserting an IV into the head of a severely malnourished child, and then I remember the frustration when the rehabilitated child bounced-back to the hospital - once again with severe malnutrition. From these experiences, questions formulated. How do you provide a real solution for a severely malnourished child whose parents are uneducated and unemployed? Experiences influential to the answer included living amongst Sierra Leoneans (both medical students and traditional families), talking to malnourished children's families as well as their community members, and analyzing the solutions established by other organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Action Faim. This is a route to one potential solution out of countless encountered problems. We have decided to tackle a problem in the following two most vulnerable groups of Sierra Leone: Children under age 5 and war-disabled communities. In children under 5, severe malnutrition is the problem being tackled. Working toward its resolution, we run a district-wide community outreach program and therapeutic feeding center. The outreach program involves community sensitization, nutrition surveillance in both villages and primary health units, and retrieval system for identified children as well as their guardians. The current therapeutic feeding center is a medical unit providing free health services to WHO-classified severely malnourished children while educating their guardians. Since our communityoutreach program involves 77,400 children under 5, we have decided to build a dedicated medical facility in order to accommodate for an increased patient capacity of up-to 200 severely malnourished children per month. With a program integrating clinical medicine, public health, education, and agriculture and established in collaboration with UNICEF, WFP, and the Ministry of Health, we can reduce severe malnutrition by 80%within the next 5 years in the Port Loko District. In war-disabled communities, empowerment of amputated individuals is the problem being tackled. Working toward its resolution, we run an empowerment program amongst 9 communities in Kono - home of the "Blood Diamonds." The program supports their self-proclaimed most pressing needs, which ubiquitously includes food security as well as access to health care and child education. In order to provide food security, we support their community-driven micro-agriculture project in which they have 155 acres of farmland and grow rice. In order to provide access to health care and child education, we have plans to build a medical facility and secondary school with technical training institute. Since receiving a gift from the chiefs of 4 acres, we are proceeding with the site plans. Meanwhile, we have begun a monthly-run mobile clinic. On its launch, we encountered 170 patients over two days. With a program integrating health, agriculture, and education and established in collaboration with the US Embassy, Direct Relief International, and the affiliated Sierra Leonean Ministries, we can empower the amputees to become self-reliant within the next 10 years inthe Kono District. If you are interested in reducing severe malnutrition and / or empowering amputated individuals from the war, come to Sierra Leone. We need help solving problems in poverty and health.


Dan Kelly

Resources: Global Action Foundation; Photo Gallery