MANONKOH VILLAGE, Sierra Leone (UMNS) – People needing health care in the remote communities of Manonkoh, Rokon, Maserry and Masethie in northern Sierra Leone used to be in dire straits. Pregnant women in labor and people with other health emergencies were rushed from these communities on motorbikes – the main means of transportation in rural Sierra Leone – through a 30-kilometer stretch of bad road to Makeni, the provincial capital, for treatment, sometimes during odd hours of the night. Stories abound of patients who had lost their lives to treatable ailments because their families could not convoy them in time to receive immediate medical attention.

All that changed on June 4 when the United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference, in partnership with United Methodists in Minnesota, dedicated a $60,000 health facility in Manonkoh Village.

Funded mainly by the Lance and Julie Burma Foundation of Minnesota, the new Doris Acton UMC Community Health Center is named after a parish nurse from Minnesota. “Today, the focus of the clinic continues to be primary care to all people; care that is accessible and affordable,” Acton said. “Nobody is turned away. We primarily focus on the diseases that cause the biggest morbidity and mortality rates in children … malaria, pneumonia, worms and diarrhea.”