LIBERIA - On our second day in Liberia, we visited Redemption Hospital, which serves a population of 400,000. In just one year, their staff – which includes 17 medical doctors – treated over 216,000 people with every single one of the patients treated for free. The beds in the pediatric ward sleep three children each. The maternity ward houses two mothers and two babies per bed. There is little merriment in this ward. There are no beaming husbands or stupidly proud, first-time grandparents. No one is marveling over the miracle of life. Instead there are innumerable reminders of how difficult it is to preserve it. It’s impossible to imagine anyone being able to recover from illness here but the staff’s dedication and herculean efforts inspired me more than anything I’d previously seen in my life.
Blood samples waiting to be tested at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana.
Redemption consists of a small cluster of buildings connected by outdoor passageways. Torrential rains began to fall shortly after our arrival leaving pools of standing water in these little alleys, breeding grounds for deadly mosquitoes – even at the hospital, malaria poses a threat. And because of these rains and because of the electricity challenge, the doctors worry about losing power during surgery. So they run a generator. In addition to the smells of sickness, mold, and standing water there are diesel fumes wafting everywhere.
The emergency room sees an average of 800 sick people per day; mothers, sisters, brothers, children, fathers. In a sea of desperate faces, I failed to find one that belonged to someone who appeared over forty. A glimpse around this room defies the natural order.
The hospital also treats 1200 patients with HIV. Patients who depend on the ARV therapy to diminish their viral load and keep them healthy. While HIV/AIDS still presents a serious challenge in Liberia, the country has managed to slash the prevalence of HIV/AIDS by half in just a decade, thanks in part to the work of the Global Fund. Despite the difficulties, there is hope all around. In spite of the conditions that hulk over this place, lives are being saved. Lives are being improved. Bed nets are given to prevent malaria from spreading, mothers are being given access to HIV treatment so they can take care of their families and have healthy children of their own. Progress is gaining, but there’s a long road ahead.