No More Needless Deaths


Women wearing nurses uniforms

Filling the critical pediatric healthcare gap in Sierra Leone.

With extreme poverty, limited access to safe drinking water, and lack of education among young mothers about proper feeding and hygienic practices, Sierra Leone has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. In fact, one child in seven will die before their fifth birthday. An acute shortage of pediatric care providers has made the situation even more critical.

Cuso International volunteer Carrie Trabka went to Sierra Leone to address the pediatric healthcare gap and help save children’s lives.

An experienced Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a Masters of Science in Nursing, Carrie is helping to train pediatric nurses at the Faculty of Nursing, College of Medicine & Allied Health Sciences in Sierra Leone. Hundreds of young men and women have signed up for her nursing classes.

“Each day I am teaching my students simple, lifesaving interventions for children who would otherwise have died needlessly,” says Carrie.

She gives the example of children born with a cleft palette. Not considered fatal by any means in North America, in Sierra Leone hundreds of children born with a cleft palette die every year because mothers don’t know how to feed them properly. By training local nurses in simple breast-feeding techniques, they can in turn teach women at local clinics and in the community. The training is already having an impact.

“Recently one of my students was on a bus in the city and saw a mother carrying a child with a severe cleft palette,” says Carrie. “My young student approached the mother and shared some of the techniques she had learned in class. My student was excited because for the first time she realized she was empowered, and was helping a child survive simply by passing on knowledge,” adds Carrie.

A highly skilled pediatric nurse, Carrie could have gone to Sierra Leone and provided care to children herself. But there are only so many patients one person can see. By training hundreds of local nurses, so many more lives can be saved…long after Carrie returns home. And that’s what Cuso International is all about — helping people and communities build the capacity to help themselves.

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