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Road accidents, Sierra Leone’s mass casualties

When we tell you about massive influxes of patients in a short period of time, usually it is because of events associated with war, such as news arriving from Afghanistan. However, we also see mass casualties in other countries in which we work. One example is in Sierra Leone.

Marco, EMERGENCY surgeon in Sierra Leone

The cause there is frequent road accidents. Transport services in Africa are considerably different than those we are used to. If you live in Sierra Leone, and need to take public transport, you have three possibilities: okadas, noisy motorcycle taxis which dart around city traffic and allow you quickly to arrive even at very difficult locations; poda-podas, colourful minivans which, when you see them, make you ask yourself how they are still able to function; and finally, local public buses. Public transit is overloaded with people, and the streets are in disrepair and poorly maintained, with non-existent safety rules making them more hazardous. Many people, therefore, lose their lives each year. Yet in many cases, their injuries would be treatable, if access to medical care were easier.

This is one of the purposes of our First Aid Trauma Posts. They are structures which permit continuing health care to be guaranteed on the ground. Our staff at the posts is ready for every eventuality, including responding to a mass casualty, such as one a few days ago. 40 injured people arrived at Waterloo in 20 minutes. They had been on board a bus, which went off-road, and ended up in a ditch.