Sierra Leone Diary Day 1: Faiths Act team arrive in Freetown
Sierra Leone had definitely been en fete. The remains of the bunting and the 50th anniversary of Independence posters were still there. The little hotel at the Lungi jetty had been jollied up and there was talk of new boats for Pelican Water taxis to get you to Aberdeen Bridge in downtown Freetown. But it was the same old boat and night passage with a Kung Fu movie on the boat video, nice white wake outside with spray through the window. We had a senior serving British naval officer at the High Commission behind us, who'd come back after being with British Forces who ended the civil war in 2000 - several did - and we had life jackets which made you even hotter. One small step to SEALdom. Well, at least to Master and Commander without the sails.
The Naval officer was very supportive of the workshop we are planning on Wednesday with religious leaders. He got the idea immediately; faith leaders had the legitimacy and trust to teach people about malaria with authority and conviction. They could make a big difference. The owner of the boat liked the idea too: "you've come to the right place if it's about malaria". The rains had started and people were getting infected as the mosquitoes bred in a pools that accumulated. A mining guru at the airport pointed out a burst plastic water bag on the floor as a good mosquito maternity unit. Every other visitor until proved otherwise is a mining guru or works in an NGO.
The hotel hadn't changed either. The lock on my door didn't work: "the rain's got into the lock". Maintenance "might" come in the morning. Right. It would be nice to get in and out unattended though.
Well, when you run a workshop on malaria you definitely get the bad hex award if you catch it. We got a canister of mozzy-spray from reception and sprayed out the rooms and came choking out to sit like refugees in the foyer. It was probably a mixture of plutonium, bleach and DTT only allowed in Africa. Certainly killed the bugs but acted like tear-gas. Half and hour later the room could just about support human life.
Next day was detailed final planning and a walk through at the hotel where the workshop would happen. It was run by a giant Beijing-based conglomerate that had built bits of the Beijing Olympics. They was impeccable: flexible and helpful. Welcome to the new Africa.
To read more about our work in Sierra Leone click here.