Last Friday, Goal staff and many others, including myself, attended a memorial service for a Kenyan expat who passed away a good week earlier. The service was pretty bad, with the minister, during the service, advertising the church’s services, listing various options for renting out the venue, as well as their individual cost.

Contrary to popular opinion, Sierra Leone is extremely safe, as far as crime and violence go. It’s diseases which kill people left right and center. Naomi, the Kenyan expat, hadn’t felt too great for a few weeks, though doctors here weren’t able to diagnose the problem. She went back to Kenya on sick leave, only to be admitted to intensive care upon arrival, where she passed away a week later, still, as far as I know, undiagnosed.
Naomi’s wasn’t the only death in our vicinity since my arrival a good month ago. Since entering the country, it’s come to my attention that…

+ The wife of one of the Goal driver’s died.
+ The son of one of the house guards died.
+ An German expat intern, an acquaintance of the head of the Goal office in Kenema, though not working for Goal, died.
+ Naomi passed away.
+ A friend of the partner of one of the Goal expats died.
+ A Goal expat was helping out a young couple with HIV/AIDS and a kid. The husband of the couple died.
+ The father of a friend of the partners of two Goal expats died.
+ The brother of a hasher died.

The only ‘natural’ death was the last in the list, a man in his seventies dying of cancer. The only other death for which, as far as I know, the cause was known, was the man who died of the consequences of HIV/AIDS.
All the other deaths were of unknown cause.

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So many young people dying for unknown reasons is what I find worrying. If you’re in your thirties, say, you’re not supposed to die. You’re supposed to live to a ripe old age.
Of course, that’s me looking at the world through the eyes of a privileged first worlder, which is exactly the reason I’m worrying in the first place. And it’s perhaps also because death is so common here that few seemed to take offense at the minister hawking his services during his service. Downcast as the expats were at the death, the locals see it every day. Or at least, much more often.

Case in point being the following. The infant mortality rate in Sierra Leone is around 80 per 1000 live births, among the highest in the world. With about 40 births per 1000 people and a population of about 5 million, there are about 200.000 births per year and, hence 16.000 children dying per year, or some 50 per day. To compensate, the country’s fertility rate is 5 births per woman.
Life expectancy is amongst the lowest in the world, at some 55 years, though this is still significantly higher than countries like Zimbabwe or Swaziland, where it’s 45 and 48 respectively.

It’s a good thing that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is so very low here, well relatively to other sub Saharan African countries, estimated at under 2%, with less than 60.000 people living with HIV/AIDS. With the low quality of healthcare, a higher prevalence rate would surely kill of large portions of the population very quickly.

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On a more positive note, Niamh and I celebrated at the Freetown’s hash annual posh nosh, more commonly known at other hashes as the AGPU, the Annual Grand (or General) Piss Up. Decent food, decent drinks, dancing and lots of fun. And an overly friendly (read: grabby) Lebanese cook.


After Disqus stopped working properly for most posts on my site, I figured it was time for another upgrade. For the initiated, I started using the Smarty templating engine. Extremely useful as it also allowed me to seriously tone down on the amount of code I need to maintain myself.
The amount of work needed was minimal, perhaps one full day’s work. Unfortunately, though surfing the web, on most days, here in Sierra Leone, is barely doable, actually uploading files to a server is almost always an impossibility. As a result, it has taken me a few weeks to get the work done.

As a bonus, Facebook likes now seem to work properly again as well.