Prior to the outbreak of Ebola, Joriam Clinic in Grand Bassa struggled to get everything including gloves and pills. Its owner, Joseph B. Sumo, went through difficulties to get medical supplies.
“We are a private clinic and we struggle to get everything,” Sumo said. “One sunny day in October 2014, I received a call from Daniel Mellish, Building Everyone’s Success in West Africa (BESTWA) Field Director, asking me to come to his office.”
He said upon his arrival, to his utmost surprise, in airtight packages were medical supplies for his clinic, which had temporarily closed amid the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD).
“We were not expecting it; it was a big surprise. We came to Monrovia constantly to buy drugs. Sometimes, we didn’t find the kind of pills we needed, so the donation came as a real big surprise.”
The donation was part of two tons of high-quality medical supplies from BESTWA to 25 hospitals and clinics fighting the EVD across Liberia. Worth US$2.6 million, it came about because of BESTWA’s partnerships with Global Assistance and Medical Mission International.
Joriam Clinic is located in the vicinity called ‘Old Barracks’ in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, and handles treatable and preventable diseases such as malaria, typhoid, diarrhea, dysentery and sometimes rabies from dog bites, Sumo said.
According to him, the donation by BESTWA is the first of any kind since Joriam Clnic opened its doors to people with common ailments in March 2006. “Ebola affected us so badly we had to close and reopened in October.”
Sumo said his wish is for the BESTWA to go beyond its donations of medical items, “but to please give us some medical books to read so we can at least be up to date.”
Daniel Mellish, BESTWA Field Director, said more donations are pending. “Currently, we have a 40-ft container at the Freeport of Monrovia filled with rice and other foodstuffs for our school feeding, program and our donors in America are about to airlift a huge consignment of medical supplies to Liberia.”
BESTWA Executive Director, Andy Perkins, said his organization has imported five containers of enriched rice meals (280,000 rice meals per container) in response to the recent food crises in Buchanan.
“For instance, during the recent Ebola school closings, 300 public school teachers were without pay and without food. We put food on the table for all of them. We distributed 55 drums of commercial grade chlorine. We imported by air US$2.6 million in antibiotics and other essential drugs,” Perkins said.
Corroborating Perkins’ claim, Mellish added that they have been feeding kids since 2008 and it started in a single location with fewer kids and it became overwhelming for the cooking staff at BESTWA.
“We have three different feeding sites and we cook rice and soup every day from Monday to Friday,” added Mellish.
Despite these gains, the NGO said one of its biggest obstacles is getting aid into the country. “We could send in more than one supply of food and critical medical supplies a month (donated to us). We have only imported five containers in a year because of the difficulty in getting permissions. We do not import expendable medical supplies and surgical equipment because in the past the permissions have taken months and the storage expense is too great.”
In addition to the feeding program and donation of medical supplies, he said BESTWA has acquired six acres of land in Buchanan where it is building its headquarters and a clinic and when completed, the clinic will not only cater to pregnant women but also those who are suffering from treatable illnesses.
BESTWA is a Liberia-based US NGO and brainchild of Andy Perkins. With a board containing Liberians and American missionaries, it operates between the two countries bringing ties closer via humanitarian means. In the United States, it has Federal Income Tax exemption under section 501(c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.