ELWA paediatric and malnutrition programmes save lives
By Debbie Sacra | Liberia in West Africa
Mother and baby after a successful shunt operation for life-threatening hydrocephalus. Photo by SIM Liberia.
When Drs. Mikey and Beth Bryant first came to Liberia's ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital in 2019, they wondered why the paediatric service wasn’t busier. Surely, the need for children’s healthcare was greater than they were seeing?
With assistance from colleagues in Swansea Bay, Wales, they launched a discounted outpatient clinic at the hospital for children under 5 years. They soon added a malnutrition service, too, both inpatient and outpatient.
Together, the services are rescuing children from the brink of death. Nurses in the outpatient clinic and the emergency department have been trained to recognise urgent, acute illness in kids and to admit them immediately to the paediatric ward. Drugs and bed fees are subsidised so families can afford the hospitalisation.
Two-month-old Emmanuel was brought by his mother to the clinic. She had noticed his head was oddly swollen and he was fussy and uncomfortable. A mission worker on the team helped navigate the referral to the ELWA surgeons. Within days, a shunt was placed to drain fluid from the baby’s brain. The timely action of his mother and the team at ELWA likely prevented brain damage for this precious boy.
Greater awareness of the services available at ELWA has created a huge demand. April 2023 was a record-breaking month for the department. More than 400 children were treated in the emergency room or on the ward; 109 for malnutrition. The under-5s outpatient clinic saw 2240 children. Additional organisations, including Samaritan’s Purse, LIVE2540, and EMA-USA have partnered with SIM and ELWA Hospital to provide medical care for the children and essential nutritional supplies, such as fortified milk and “plumpynut,” a peanut-based supplement.
Dr. Mikey, as he is known, tells the story of Baby R, a female infant abandoned in a community near the hospital. When no one was able to provide proper nutrition for the newborn the crisis came to the attention of a local organisation, who brought her to ELWA. With emergency intervention by the malnutrition service, she improved within days. The hope of continued assistance encouraged a community member to take over care of Baby R while her family situation was sorted out.
A key emphasis in training the paediatric staff is to demonstrate gospel compassion and non-judgmental support for the children and their parents in difficult situations. During a child’s hospitalisation, parents receive education about children’s healthcare and nurture. Reflecting the heart of Christ in this way ministers spiritual healing to families as well as physical.
•For the love of Christ to be demonstrated to the families served by the paediatrics service.
•That God would provide for the physical, spiritual, and financial needs of the paediatrics staff, who serve the children sacrificially and experience their own grief and trauma in their work.
•For the provision of project and grant funds to allow subsidised care to continue, so that more children’s lives will be saved.
Cherishing and preserving the lives of children is a core value of the paediatric team. Their loving example is transforming families and communities. For this reason, a new SIM project has been established to support the paediatric service at ELWA Hospital, called “Sustaining God’s Children.”
To give, please click here to find your closest donation office and mark your gift as Project #95226.