KRB Update #2164
Keith R. Brinkman Screening Sierra Leone March 12, 2011
Greetings from Sierra Leone. I write in follow up to my last update about our screenings here in this nation. Some of you may have already read reports on the web site and through internet new sources. We had a difficult and sad week in many regards. Below is the official statement from Don about what happened on Monday. I was there at the stadium in the early morning and then accompanied by boss to a meeting at the Ministry of Health in a nearby building. When we returned, I reported to my post at the walk-in gate to the stadium (at the top of several steps) and you could sense problems – people have used words like surge and stampede – we tried to get people inside to relieve the pressure. Some had been injured and were bloody and we directed them to our medic teams in a nearby tent who took care of them. My heart goes out to all those affected and for those people who came seeking our assistance and we were not able to provide that due to the circumstances and how we had to pull back for security and safety reasons. As a crew who participated in the screening, we have been processing what has happened and the chaplains have been available for counsel.
FROM: Don Stephens Dear Mercy Ships Staff and Crew,
A very sad incident occurred in the course of screening activities today in Freetown, Sierra Leone of which you need to be aware. Initial incident reports indicate that when screening personnel arrived at the stadium this morning there were 700 people already allowed into the stadium and a large crowd outside. Sometime after 9:30 events yet to be conclusively determined occurred to agitate the crowd and cause it to storm the gate. In response 200 more people were admitted to relieve pressure, but tragically 13 were injured, including one fatality and two life threatening situations. Mercy Ships personnel on site cared for the victims and accompanied them to hospitals. No Mercy Ships personnel was injured. Ongoing investigation will determine the facts. Please keep the individuals affected and their families in prayer, and pray also for the entire crew. This is certainly a time to pray and believe that God will work all things together for good in this tragic situation. The following is the statement was released regarding the event:
Mercy Ships is deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred today during medical screening at the Freetown National Stadium when a crowd stormed the gate resulting in several injuries and one life lost. Mercy Ships personnel working at the site attended the injured and accompanied them to local hospitals.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the individuals and families of those affected by today’s events. The occurrence of this incident in the course of activities intended to restore lives is tragic. We move forward with tremendous sadness, but great determination, to assist as many people as possible in the next ten months,” stated Mercy Ships Founder, Don Stephens.
Mercy Ships exists to serve the forgotten poor and has served Sierra Leone five times over the past two decades, also helping establish two land based health care facilities. For the next ten months, Mercy Ships will be providing surgeries for qualified patients while working alongside the Sierra Leonean Government to support its five-year healthcare plan and strengthen the functions of the national health system.
A former crew member who was here in the nation of Sierra Leone before on the Anastasis and took this photo of the billboard just outside the international airport in Lungi. I was over at the airport last Friday evening, but I didn’t see it but it was late evening and there are not that many lights around here.
KRB Update #2163
Keith R. Brinkman Arrival Sierra Leone March 5, 2011
Greetings from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. From September to January, the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest charity hospital ship, was in dry dock in Durban, South Africa undergoing essential repairs and upgrades to its on-board power generators and other mechanical systems. While about 80 crew members remained onboard during the dry dock, others, myself included, moved to a compound called Appelsbosch. I am excited that we are all back together as one crew – those of us who went to Appelsbosch, those that stayed on board and those long term crew who were away on extended leave.
The sail from South Africa was a beautiful journey and except for a couple days it was smooth. While we sail, our jobs and responsibilities continue and the days were long as I continued to work with the various teams already ahead of the ship in Sierra Leone. I worked on making preparations for our arrival and initial weeks as it relates to programs. During the second week, Staff Development conducted a three day country briefing during which I had the opportunity to share on crew opportunities for this year. The last night at sea, we had worship on the bow with African drums and dolphins came and swam alongside us – it was a special evening.
We sailed into Freetown on Sunday early morning – please see the photo to the right with the two crew members on board from Sierra Leone. This country is still recovering from a destructive civil war that started 20 years ago and left many with physical and emotional scars from their traumatic experiences. For the first time, patient screening preceded the arrival of the Africa Mercy and began in January with 5,010 patients screened so far. The screening team went to six cities in Sierra Leone (5 were inland or upcountry) – Koidu, Makeni, Kabala, Kenema, Bo and Aberdeen. 383 surgical patients are already scheduled for surgery and another 708 are prequalified and on a waiting list. We will be having a specialist surgical screening on Monday the 7th March (with overflow from that day into the 8th March) at Freetown National Stadium. Over 140 hospital crew and over 100 non-hospital crew will be involved in the screening days. We will be helping with crowd control, serving water, kid’s ministry, prayer and of course the medical assessments. We also couldn’t do it without our day volunteers who will be helping us with translation over the two days. The surgical specialties that we will be screening for are maxillofacial, general, plastics and orthopaedics. We are unsure how many will turn up to be screened but it is our prayer that we minister God’s love to all those that come to screening whether we are able to offer them a surgery or not. Mercy Ships is aligning its services with Sierra Leone’s health care goals, and in addition to the life transforming surgeries it will perform, Mercy Ships will continue to focus on training local medical professionals and partnering with organizations who can continue to work to transform this nation for years to come.
Few Facts for Sierra Leone: ▫ Life Expectancy is 56 years ▫ One in every 8 women will die in child birth this year
▫ One in every 5 children will not make it to the age of 5 ▫ 75% of the population lives on less than $2 per day * 5.3 million people *42% of the population are under 15 years old * Main ethic groups – Temne & Mende
Prayer Requests: ** Surgical Screenings ** Start up of our projects on and off the ship ** Health & Safety.
This is an evening view of Freetown and the port where we are docked from the water taxi as we travelled across towards the international airport.
At the request of my boss the managing director, I travelled over on the water taxi with Patrik, Nils, and Diana (taking the photo) as they were leaving. I went to welcome and assist some special guests who arrived on the flight from Heathrow, England. We had our fair share of sea water spray on the 40 minute journey across in the evening.
Life is an adventure – here in Sierra Leone transport to the airport is a journey – we have a contract with a water taxi company who pick us up at Berth #1 inside the port and take us across the ocean to a location near the airport at Lungi. For a small group like our’s last night they use the speed boat.