By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
The Premier League Board (PLB) Chairman Victor Lewis has described his organization’s partnership with the NGO, Save the Children’s Every One Campaign as a national cause. “We are very proud to be a key partner in this important national health campaign. Yes, we need the trophies and the medals; but the fact that we are helping to save lives means a lot to us. Who knows, may be the child we save today could be the next Mohamed Kallon,” said Lewis.
Save the Children (Sierra Leone Programme) recently announced a partnership with the Sierra Leone Premier League Board (PLB) to use football to promote the ‘Every One Campaign’, an initiative by the NGO to complement the efforts of the Government of Sierra Leone to significantly reduce infant and maternal mortality in the country.
Sierra Leone is among the countries in the world with high rates of infant and maternal deaths.
According to a 2011 midwifery report, there are only two midwives to attend to 1000 births in this country. Many of the country’s pregnant women are attended to by untrained Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) living next door.
Since the launch of the campaign and subsequent partnerships with key stakeholders such as the media and musicians, some progress has been recorded. “Currently infant and maternal deaths in Sierra Leone have reduced by 50; from 190 deaths per every 1000 births to 140. So we are moving forward, but we need to do more- like halving it to 70 deaths per 1000 births before 2015,” said Joanna Tom Kargbo, Program Officer, Every One Campaign.
“This is achievable,” continued Joanna, “especially when you consider that most of these deaths are caused by preventable diseases.”
Through partnership with the PLB, Save the Children is engaging footballers and club officials as attitude change agents to help spread the word of the campaign. A key message of the campaign is to encourage pregnant women and suckling mothers to take advantage of the government’s Free Health Care program.
“Football has a large following and footballers have great influence on their fans. So when they talk about the campaign people will listen and become interested,” said Morlai Conteh, Information Officer, Save the Children.
Following the formal launch of the partnership in February, Save the Children and the PLB conducted workshops for Premier League clubs to introduce them to the Every One Campaign and the Free Health Care program. Town Criers, in every District also participated in the workshops.
They were each presented with a microphone, with built-in recording device, to help them in their work.
In addition, all Premier League football fields, including the National Stadium in Freetown, will be branded with the campaign in various ways. Premier league players will put on Every One T-shirts on the pitch during warm-up prior to league matches.
Save the Children is committed to provide the PLB with a giant champion’s trophy, medals and 15 smaller trophies for various awards such as best player and highest goal scorer.
“Our partnership with a reputable NGO like Save the Children has raised the profile of the league. And we are positive this will bring a lot of good as long as we fulfill our own part of the bargain,” said Lewis.