After the first successful surgery, which attracted nationwide attention, many other sick babies were brought for help.
Charles then spoke to Fr. Peter Konteh, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown and the two set up an organization “to standardize things and change from individual cases to collective organizational format.”
Since inception, 40 children have benefitted from the project by undergoing successful surgeries through which the charity arm of Sierra Leone’s Archdiocese of Freetown had forged partnerships with top hospitals in India.
The India-based hospitals now give children under the “Sick Babies Project” generous discounts on their respective treatments.
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Unfortunately, six children under the “Sick Babies Project” succumbed to complications of their ailments and 20 are waiting for funds to undergo treatment, according to the Caritas Freetown Programs Manager.
Additionally, 32 people drawn by the work of Caritas Freetown have joined the charity organization to work as volunteers on the street project.
Charles says that on a good day, Caritas Freetown has managed to collect slightly over 1,000,000 Leones which is about US$100.00.
“There’s a day that members of parliament joined us in our begging and we raised over 10,000,000 Leones (US$1,000.00); but most of the time, we collect US$100.00,” he told ACI Africa September 29, adding that on bad days, the group collects as low as US$5.00.
Caritas Freetown has however worked on cases such as biliary atresia which cost up to US$36,000.00 for a liver transplant, encephalocele which costs US$16,000.00, and imperforated anus at US$14,000.00 among other expensive medical procedures.
“The amount gets higher when we include other expenses such as accommodation and travel, making the treatment very expensive,” the Sierra Leonean Caritas official said.
He added, “I remember it once took us six months to raise funds for just one child. The situation becomes desperate when you have 20 children waiting for funds to undergo treatment with their health deteriorating.”
Explaining how Caritas Freetown follows up on treatment of the children, the official said, “Some of the children have family members and loved ones who take care of them but when they need to travel to India, we send one of our staff members to accompany them, especially those who have never travelled out of the country before and do not understand English.”
This story was first published by ACI Africa on 29 September 2020
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.