Sierra Leone Vice President Visits EMERGENCY’s Soda Programme

Recently, EMERGENCY welcomed Sierra Leone Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh to the Goderich Surgical Centre to see our Soda Programme: the only project in the country for the treatment of preventable burns from caustic soda ingestion.

In Sierra Leone, many women make homemade soap from caustic soda as part of an initiative that began in the wake of the decade-long civil war. Also known as lye, caustic soda is incredibly dangerous to ingest and can cause internal burns that impair swallowing, leading to malnutrition. Yet with its translucent appearance, caustic soda is often mistaken for water, particularly by children.

From January to April 2024, children under 14 years old made up more than 80% of patients admitted to EMERGENCY’s Soda Programme.

We have many children in Sierra Leone who are suffering with lifelong health difficulties resulting from ingesting caustic soda, and sadly some are dying.”

– Sierra Leone Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh

These injuries are entirely preventable with a coordinated public health response. Recognising this, EMERGENCY’s Soda Programme, which has been active since 2005, provides more than surgery and burn treatment. Every day, our community health promoters – some of whom have been through the Soda Programme themselves – teach children how to swallow again, share good health practices with their parents, and raise awareness of the dangers of lye.

Following the visit, Vice President Jalloh renewed a commitment to taking steps in the public health and financial sectors to address this unintended consequence of home soap production, which remains an important source of income for many in the country.

With nearly two decades of experience, EMERGENCY continues to collaborate with public health stakeholders and remains fully available to coordinate and assist with future awareness, prevention and treatment initiatives.

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