WASHINGTON (August 13, 2018) – A group of members of Congress from California and their staff and guests traveled with the poverty-fighting organization CARE to Sierra Leone to see how vital U.S. investments and partnerships are improving health outcomes for women and their families. This group was joined by representatives from the Global Health Council, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Congressional Research Service.
This five-day trip highlighted the impact of a swift and coordinated response from the U.S. and international community to contain and ultimately end the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone and throughout the West Africa region. The delegation learned how such a response was critical to not only stabilize a region severely ill-equipped to manage such an outbreak, but how those investments are now supporting Sierra Leone’s transition from emergency health response to long-term, sustainable health development.
The delegation’s journey took place in Sierra Leone, a country that is currently grappling with high poverty rates and very weak health indicators. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate and the second highest infant mortality rate in the world. Fertility rates remain high with 5 children being born on average to each household and more than 60 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Child marriage is also a major issue – nearly half of women are married before the age of 18 – and acts of gender-based violence remain common and are often met with silence and impunity for perpetrators. These challenges were further exacerbated by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as well as the decade-long civil war that devastated much of the country’s infrastructure, which the country still struggles to recover from.
On the trip, the delegation learned about efforts to reduce these vulnerabilities, particularly to natural disasters and health emergencies, by strengthening the capacity of the health sector to respond to health threats like Ebola. The group also met with health workers and toured a rural health facility supported by U.S. assistance. The group closed the trip with a look at ways to promote long-term development through women’s and girls’ empowerment. The delegation visited a husband school that educates men about the importance of preventing gender-based violence, met with adolescents participating in a youth empowerment program and heard from a savings group on the impact access to financial tools and savings has had on their families’ health and livelihoods.
This Learning Tour was an opportunity for the delegation to witness the impact and long-term benefits of improved access and quality of health services for women and their families. The delegation learned how supporting Sierra Leone in its time of transition from emergency health response to achieving long-term, sustainable health gains, will require prioritization of women’s health and empowerment. Working together, the Sierra Leonean and U.S. governments and other bilateral, non-profit and private sector partners can build smart, strategic and long-term approaches to health policies that emphasize the integration of proven solutions in Sierra Leone. Leveraging the influence and special capabilities of the United States will motivate others to do more and create lasting collaborations that could transform the lives of millions in Sierra Leone, throughout the region and around the world.
Participants in CARE’s August 2018 Learning Tour to Sierra Leone included:
- Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-7)
- Dr. Janine Bera – Chief Medical Officer, WellSpace Health
- Veronica Bonilla – Press Secretary, Rep. Norma Torres
- Dana DeRuiter – Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Heather Higginbottom – Chief Operating Officer, CARE USA
- Loyce Pace – President and Executive Director, Global Health Council
- Tiaji Salaam-Blyther – Specialist in Global Health, Congressional Research Service
- Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA-35)
- Ben Weingrod – Senior Policy Advocate, CARE USA
- Jonathan Young – Regional Advocacy Coordinator, CARE USA
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries and reached more than 80 million people around the world. To learn more, please visit www.care.org.
For more information on CARE’s Learning Tours, please visit: www.care.org/LearningTours. The CARE Learning Tours program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Kamille Gardner, +1-202-595-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org