By Richard Hatzfeld
Richard recently traveled with filmmaker Mo Scarpelli to explore what life is like in Kono District, Sierra Leone, an area that supplied most of the country’s “conflict diamonds” during its bloody civil war, and which has some of Sierra Leone’s highest rates of neglected tropical diseases.
Driving east from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the remote district of Kono, the challenge of getting medicine to the communities that need it becomes pretty clear. The country’s infrastructure is slowly being rebuilt after a devastating civil war, but many of the roads can’t withstand the rainy season that lasts from May until October.
Following a downpour, roads are often transformed into rivers of mud, with pot holes large enough to swallow trucks. Once one vehicle becomes stuck, it creates a bottleneck that prevents other cars and trucks from passing. It’s not unusual for some drivers to be stuck for days during especially torrential downpours, forcing them to sleep on the road and find food wherever they can.
Helen Keller International, our partner in a recent treatment program for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Sierra Leone, overcame these types of challenges as they transported hundreds of boxes of pills upcountry to Kono district. Drivers like Seiyo – pictured here – are unsung heroes in the effort to control and eliminate NTDs in Sierra Leone and around the world.
Often pushing vehicles to their mechanical limits, finding invisible pathways through the mud, and helping to clear stuck trucks, Seiyo and others like him ensure that the key transit routes for Sierra Leone’s commerce stay open and essential medicines get to the people.
You can see more stories about unsung heroes and others filmed during my trip to Kono District in “In the Rough,” a new short film by the END7 Campaign.