Rural Health Care Initiative: Meet our Newest Network Partner (Sierra Leone)
Updated: Aug 6
We are thrilled to announce a new partner and a long-awaited return to Sierra Leone, our 12th country of operation. Rural Health Care Initiative (RHCI) operates in the Tikonko Chiefdom, Bo District of the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. Their mission is to partner with rural communities in Sierra Leone to rebuild health care systems and overcome one of the world's highest rates of maternal and child mortality.
RHCI operates two maternity waiting homes based on the midwifery model of care and staffed by local midwives & community health workers (CHWs). Their in-country team consists of 14 full-time employees and over 60 part-time staff. Please see below for a complete list of their program initiatives.
RHCI was founded by Sierra Leonean nurse Alice Karpeh who grew up in Tikonko. She and her nine children came to the US in an asylum program in 1994 during the country's civil war after her husband had been assassinated. After raising her children, she fulfilled her dream to form an organization and return to her home to help save the lives of women and babies, as she had seen so many die in childbirth.
RHCI's Programs: 1. In January 2018, RHCI opened a 24 bed Maternity Waiting Home in Tikonko. in January 2021 they opened a 9 bed Home in Gondama. Over 650 pregnant and postpartum women and babies have stayed at these facilities, with no maternal deaths. The waiting homes give pregnant, near-term women from remote villages a safe place to stay, where they receive healthy food and childbirth education. When mamas go into labor they are transported by RHCI to the local Community Health Center for midwifery-based care. RHCI also transports women to the Bo District Maternity Hospital for emergency care when necessary.
2. Motorbike Outreach Clinics have offered care to 8 villages since 2015, including treating ill children, prenatal care for pregnant women, and a child malnutrition program operated by a skilled nutritionist using WHO standards of care. Over 350 children are treated each month for illnesses such as malaria, respiratory infections, other infections and malnutrition.
3. The RHCI team has provided multiple 3 week trainings since 2015 for a total of 85 TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendants) to become Community Health Workers. CHWs are the key connection to rural communities and are employed part-time at the Birth Waiting Homes.
4. Other health system strengthening programs: reliable transportation (two 4-wheel drive Toyota vehicles and 3 motorbikes), food security with a large garden supplying food for the Maternity Waiting Homes, a 3 acre demonstration farm using modern agricultural practices, and donations of medical and baby supplies from their US office.
We are honored to partner with the team in Sierra Leone along with Dr. Carol Nelson, Program Director, and new Executive Director Lisa Peterson in Minnesota. To learn more: