Our last three MOMs (mamas of the month) have been women of influence with passion to affect change in the world around them. We highlighted a mother of six who is changing the lives of women through economic empowerment. We celebrated a woman living with her family of seven in the jungles of Costa Rica to bring hope and healthcare to pregnant women. Last month, we applauded the work of a woman who has spent the majority of her life supporting education for all.
This month, we’re doing something a little unexpected, but we have a really good reason. The reality is that so much of what are described as “women’s issues” for lack of a better term are not simply women’s issues—they are issues that affect men and children alike. Statistics and anecdotal evidence supports the idea that communities thrive when women are empowered, supported, and given the chance to lead. While we are a community of women committed to helping women, much is being done in the world for women by men who stand up to champion our rights and well-being as well.
Our “Mama” of the Month this time around is a man who does just that. We first met Dr. Abdullah Daniel Sesay through Steve, the founder of our parent organization, 4HIM. Steve was hosting Dr. ABD (as he is known by his friends) while he was visiting the U. S. for a medical conference. During that time, we learned about Dr. ABD’s plight as a doctor in Sierra Leone, a country that has been ravaged by civil war in the recent past.
4HIM helped Dr. ABD over the course of a few years with securing funding for building a clinic and for life-saving hernia surgeries for over 60 men. 4HIM also arranged to send two shipping containers full of medical supplies for use at the Magbenteh Hospital and Dr. ABD’s Gardenview Clinic in Makeni. As we got to know Dr. ABD, we learned of his desire to build a maternity ward—which gave us the idea for our first ever Love Club fundraiser. We are going to build a maternity ward at the Gardenview Clinic in Makeni, Sierra Leone!
We have watched Dr. ABD’s commitment to his patients as a general practitioner and general surgeon, as well as his devotion to the country of Sierra Leone as a member of parliament. He often works 16-18 hour days seeing as many patients as possible because healthcare is so limited in the region where he lives—one regional hospital and a few private clinics for about 2.5 million people.
Sierra Leone’s maternal and infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world. Much has been done to improve these numbers in the past decade, but they still fall short of the World Health Organization’s Millenium Development Goal of reducing mortality rates by 75% by 2015.
Dr. ABD lists lack of education, poor nutrition, and other social and economic factors as reasons for high maternal mortality rates. Infant mortality rates continue to be high because of infectious diseases, herbal/traditional medicine intoxication, and poor counseling from relatives. Despite the fact that Sierra Leone launched a program to provide free healthcare for all pregnant and post-natal women in 2010, the problem remains that 42% of births are still delivered at home without the aid of trained physicians, midwives, nurses, or aids. It is simply too difficult for many of these women to travel the distance to the nearest hospital or clinic.
Dr. ABD has already been providing the best level of prenatal and postnatal healthcare possible at his clinic, as well as saving the lives of women suffering from cancers and other tumors through surgery. Recently, a foundation out of Europe has offered a great deal of funding to hospitals in Sierra Leone that have functioning maternity wards. Helping Dr. ABD finish his maternity ward will open the door for him to partner with another organization willing to grant funding for the hospital.
We emailed Dr. ABD to explain who we are at Somebody’s Mama and to ask him a few questions. His responses were weighty and humbling. He shared several specific stories about women who have come to him for care—a 35-year-old woman suffering from swollen extremities and difficulty breathing who walked for four hours before she was able to get transportation to the nearest hospital. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver from herbal intoxication. Dr. ABD was able to help her deliver her baby successfully, and she is still under his care for her liver issues.
Dr. ABD says there are too many stories like this to tell. However, he is adamant in his belief that things will get better—it is what drives his long days of work and why he fights for the rights of his people in parliament.
When we asked Dr. ABD to share his thoughts about his own mother and other mothers who inspire him, he was brought to tears thinking about the sacrifices his own mother made and his regret that she was not alive to see the fruits of her labor. His mother suffered from abuse by the aunt who brought her up, leaving her crippled. She lost five babies before he was born and almost lost him, as it took him three months to stabilize before he was able to leave the hospital. She went on to have six more children. He shared, “Mum taught me to cook, take care of my room and be helpful to others. She was caring and loving and I just miss her. There is so much I can write about her but time does not permit me.”
Dr. ABD paid tribute to an aunt, a single mother, who taught him to be “honest, true, and God-fearing.” He added that he admires Dr. Christina Thorpe, the current electoral commissioner of Sierra Leone because she is smart, honest, firm and forthright in all she does. Lastly, he added his admiration for his wife, who took in his two children from a previous marriage and cared for them as her own while she struggled to get pregnant for eight years. They have raised five children together, and he pointed out her strength to endure hard times and her patience.
r. ABD appreciates deeply the influence strong women have had on his life and passionately advocates for women's rights and access to healthcare. We are proud to call him a friend and excited to crown him April's "Mama" of the Month!
Thank you, Dr. ABD, for all you are doing, and we look forward to partnering with you to build this maternity ward.