Christian Health Association Sierra Leone

Historical Sketch of CHASL

Our Identity

The Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL) is an interdenominational Christian Non-Governmental Organization comprising of health institutions belonging to various registered church denominations or Christian organizations, providing or promoting health care within Sierra Leone.

1970 – 1979

*Prior to the formation of CHASL few health facilities were provided by government outside cities and large towns, so missionaries (often in conjunction with evangelists and educationists) established medical work in the rural areas as an integral part of their witness and service to our Creator.

However, each mission health facility continued for a long time to operate independently of other health care providers.

On 1st February 1975, a group of 16 concerned medical workers from church-related hospitals and health centres throughout S/L met in Bo in the Southern Province and produced the following statement:

We as Christian missionaries, having a common goal, wish to  foster communion in service, in providing medical care for the people of S/ Leone. To this end it is proposed that a Christian medical group be set up

Later in February, two participants from Sierra Leone, Dr. Colin Adey – (Methodist) and Sr.Dr Eileen Keane (Roman Catholic) attended a conference for coordinators of church –related health work in Africa held in Mombassa, Kenya.

Upon their return to Sierra Leone, they urged their colleagues to conduct a survey of church-related health activities in Sierra Leone. This was done with help of Dr. Stuart Kingma from the Christian Medical Commission (CMC) of the Word Council of Churches (WCC). It was discovered that Church health institutions then provided up to 35% of the health care delivery service in the country.

A two days workshop was held from 30th- 31st May to discuss the result of the survey. 50 participants from church, government and international organisations attended the workshop and the outcome of the workshop was a unanimous resolution to form an Agency for planning and coordinating in greater degree among themselves and the government of Sierra Leone. Thus the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL) was born.

Membership of the Association was based on church denominations and hence at the start   the member health institutions belonged to mainline church denominations such as: Catholics, Anglicans, Methodist, United Methodist Church and the Wesleyan Church. Its purpose was to bring members together in regular meetings, for information sharing and to coordinate their health care delivery programmes. CHASL was affiliated to the Christian Medical Commission (CMC) of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and with time gained recognition from the Government of Sierra Leone.

The services of the church owned institutions were not only greatly appreciated by people of Sierra Leone but also by people from other neighbouring West African Countries like The Republic of Guinea, Liberia, Mali etc.

. In 1978, a joint school of nursing programme was started in both the Serabu Catholic community Hospital at Serabu in the Bo District and the Nixon Memorial Methodist Hospital at Segbwema in the Kailahun District. The Schools of Nursing programme was for many years funded by the following partners:  CEBEMO of Holland, MISEREOR of Germany, and Bread for the World of Germany. The GOSL was later forced to own the programme and started with meagre contribution of support at the time rated at Le 5,000 per month.

The secretariat of CHASL started at East Street as co-tenants with CUSO & CRS who offered some secretarial services. When later when CUSO moved from this premises, CHASL went with CRS to Spiritus House at 8 House Street, where it was provided with 2 rooms as office space. During this period CHASL was run by voluntary part time coordinators. Sr. Dr. Eileane Keane served as part time Coordinator, and so did Rev. Leslie Wallace who was Secretary of the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone.

The first full time Coordinator was Mrs Iyatunde Palmer who served for a short time before she took ill and had to leave.

1980 – 1989

On the 7th of November 1980 Mrs Joyce Dougan was appointed as Executive Secretary, a position she held till 30th April 1985.  The first evaluation of the organization was done by Mr Stuart Kingma and the report was dated 17th November 1980. Mrs Marion Morgan was then appointed as Executive secretary in 1st August 1985.  The Secretariat staff comprised of: The Executive secretary, a Business Manager, an office secretary and a driver.  The organisation at this point owned a saloon car that helped enhance mobility.  Membership of CHASL by 1985 consisted of 7 Hospitals, 19 Health Centres belonging to 9 denominations and 3 affiliate Members.

In 1987 The Executive Director attended a workshop in Benin on the Community Based Health Care (CBHC) approach and this experience motivated her and led to the vision of promoting CBHC through piloting and a training programme in CHASL.

1990 – 1999

There was a steady growth of the membership of the organization by this decade in its history. Membership grew from 29 to over 40. In 1990 CHASL entered into partnership with the Christian Reform World Relief committee (CRWRC), and received support (both technical and financial) to set up the Primary health care (PHC) Department which was mainly responsible for the promotion of the CBHC approach to PHC through Piloting and training. For this purpose CRWRC provided one Technical Assistant, Fund and two Vehicles and funds. Several training of trainers (ToT) workshop on CBHC were conducted for staff of CHASL members and other interested players in the field of health on the country including some staff of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS). The partnership with CRWRC provided the additional fund for CHASL to be able to rent a bigger office space and hence relocate in January 1991, to 5 Gloucester Street, a property of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

The piloting of CBHC approach commenced in 1991 and 1992 in 5 rural and 2 urban communities respectively. The setting up of the PHC Department led to an increase in staff and hence the need for a bigger office space. A PHC Coordinator, PHC Supervisor a secretary, 3 Community Facilitators a driver and an additional Office Assistant were engaged. Hence by 1992 the total staff strength of the Organization grew to 13 (10 secretariat   and 3 field staff), while the membership had also grown to 47 comprising of 8 Hospitals and 39 Health centres and related Health programmes owned by the Churches representing 12 denominations.

23rd March 1991 marked the start of the ten years long rebel war in Sierra Leone. CHASL member institution had a fair share of the loss suffering and trauma brought about by the war, leading to complete closure, relocation or reduced scale of operations in these institutions:

  • On the 12th March 1994 Panguma Catholic Hospital was attacked and the Missionary Doctor and his family and together with the parish priest who was also Administrator of the Hospital were murdered.
  • In 1995 Serabu Catholic Community Hospital was closed down in 1995 and students in the training school transferred to the National school of Nursing in Freetown.
  • The 1995 attack in Lunsar badly affected the operations of the Baptist eye Hospital, and also the temporary closure of the Rural pilot programme of the CBHC by the PHC Department of the CHASL secretariat
  • In 1998 Nixon Memorial hospital and nurses training School was relocated to kenema.
  • The disruption of the two institutions involved in the Joint Nurses training Programme, especially the closure of Serabu catholic Hospital brought an end to this programme although Nixon Memorial Hospital had managed to keep their school going by charging minimal tuition fees to students.

With the spread of war related trauma across the Country especially in areas where it members operate, CHASL saw the need to be involved in trauma healing work. The Christian Health of Liberia (CHAL) was engaged to conduct the first Trauma healing training of Trainers Workshop in 1995.

To further equip its staff to implement Trauma Healing and peace Building, both the PHC Co-ordinator and Supervisor received 6 six weeks training on “Community Based Reconciliation, Peace building and Trauma Healing” from  CARITAS Sierra Leone. This led to CHASL staff conducting a 4 weeks in two set of two weeks training for its members on the same topic, in 1997 and 1998 respectively, in order to equip them to handle issues of conflict, and trauma in the communities they work.

In an attempt to avoid the rising cost of rent for Office space The Executive council approved the proposal for CHASL to seek for funding to acquire land and construct a secretariat of its own. 1n 1995 CHASL Executive negotiated a 99 year lease with the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone for a portion of land at the Richmond’s compound at 4B Kingharman Road, and the Foundation Stone for the CHASL Secretariat was laid on the 7th July 1995, and the building was officially opened on the 20th of February 1996.

The attack of Freetown by the AFRC Rebels in 1997 caused the CHASL secretariat in Freetown to reduce its operations thereby laying off of a bulk of its staff, but maintained a skeleton staff. In 1998 the office resumed its full operations and the staffs laid off were recalled. The first full time pharmacist engaged in 1998.

CHASL continued in its programmatic work which had been developed in 1991 to intervene in internally displaced people’s camp and war affected communities in the area of CBHC, Conflict resolution Trauma healing and the provision of Revolving Loan. Four internally displaced camps were targeted while about thirty (30) war affected communities nation-wide were also targeted in 1999 to train affected communities Nation-wide on Trauma Healing and Conflict Resolution. The proposal attracted funding from Tear Fund UK, CIDA in Canada, Trinity parish in the USA, and Sierra Leone War Child Trust (SLWCT) in the UK.

By the end of this decade with immense support from CHASL a Nurses Training School was established at the UBC Mattru Hospital a member of CHASL.

2000 – 2010

The implementations of some of the programmes targeting Communities were done at great risk as they involve travelling to the provinces through areas that were still under the control of rebel factions. On the 21st July 2000 a team of Programme staff headed by the Programme Manager were abducted by the notorious armed rebel faction known as “the Westside Boys”, but were later released unharmed after ten days.

In this Decade CHASL got involved in a number of new programmes and projects as follows:

  • In 2001 – 2008 a programme titled “Mending Hearts” was jointly developed and implemented with the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, targeting church leaders and heath workers to equip them with professional skills in Psychosocial Counselling.
  • The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative supported by UNICEF in 2008
  • The Essential Maternal and Newborn Care By UNICEF in 2010
  • The start of HIV /AIDS programme supported by Siera Leone HIV and AIDS Response Programme (SHARP) through National Commission for Social Action (NACSA)

In 2003, in order to meet the growing financial needs of the organization, since   annual membership fees and other income generating activities were inadequate CHASL started renting out a section of the ground floor of the CHASL Secretariat building.

The Executive Director in the person of Mrs Marion Morgan retired in 2006 after 21 years of service to the organization. Her successor Mr. Samuel Pieh whose service with CHASL started 2007 served the organization only for a period 18 months and had to move on. A new Executive Director in the person of Mr. Walter Carew was engaged, and his term of office started in January 2009 and is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Also a new part time Pharmacist was engaged in 2007 as replacement to the first Pharmacist who had moved on.

CHASL in 2008 went through some financial and Administrative difficulties that led to 2 serious extra ordinary Audit or the organization as follows: Firstly a Targeted Audit in 2008 by Leone Consultancy and a Fraud Audit requested in 2008 by Cordaid (our Major donor) and conducted in 2009 The outcome of these two audit led to the strengthening of the Organization with financial and administrative control measure put in place at the Secretariat. The office of the Finance Manager (FM) was created to replace the office of the Finance and Admin Officer (FAO) that has now been dissolved and the Finance functions separated from the Administrative functions. The first Finance Manger of CHASL was engaged on the 1st of September 2009.

Several other organisational changes took place within CHASL during this decade includes

  • The Review of the CHASL constitution in 2003, which ushered in a change in the composition of the Executive Council. Health Professional from member institutions now make up the Executive Council as against Heads of Churches Previously
  • The Administrative Manual and Conditions of Service for Secretariat Staff was revised in 2009
  • A Finance and Administrative Manual was developed and implemented in 2010
  • The Accounts at the Secretariat was computerised with the re introduction of the Quick Book Accounting Package
  • A  Finance Committee was introduced in 2007
  • The Education committee was revived in 2009
  • The Pharmacy Committee was revived in 2011

Currently CHASL has a membership of 54 (12 hospitals, 37 health centres and 6 health related Programmes), with a Secretariat still located in Freetown the Capital city to facilitate the activities of member Institutions. This involves the procurement of drugs and medical supplies, coordinating meetings, liaising with Government and other partners, and Capacity building.