In 2014 at the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Victoria Cooper-Enchia, from Monrovia Rotary in Liberia, started the Ebola Legacy campaign, initially supplying aid to a devastated community.
In August that year, Marlow Rotary in Buckinghamshire, through then President, Brian Jonson, joined the campaign.
Recognising that Liberia had virtually no medical grade oxygen for hospitals in the Liberian capital, they put together a Rotary Global Grant.
And now, five years later, they have oxygen!
“The project has not been without challenges,” said Brian, now an Assistant Governor with 1090 District (Thames Valley).
“Our equipment supplier went into liquidation, then the first hospital started making demands we could not accept. Now three suppliers and three hospitals on, plus a massive fundraising campaign, we have the perfect fit.”
In May, installation engineers installed a new medical oxygen concentrator into a purpose-built building at the ELWA hospital, where staff were trained to operate the plant.
Within a short period of time, the plant was up and running and filling cylinders. And then came the moment of truth when the first cylinders were wheeled out to the wards and the first oxygen was piped into the operating theatre.
“The doctors are absolutely delighted and the production is running smoothly,” added Brian. “ We hope to be able to extend piped supplies, especially to the maternity unit.”
Dr Adewale Ogunbadejo conducted a Rotary Foundation Technical Cadre visit in May during the insulation and testing.
Over three days, he met with the Rotary Project Committee, the American engineers and technicians installing the plant, along with other key hospital staff.
Dr Ogunbadejo expressed his satisfaction with the project, its progress and the institutional partner.
The doctors are absolutely delighted and the production is running smoothly.”
He particularly noted the critical nature of oxygen to the hospital and praised the efforts of the Monrovia and Marlow Rotary clubs.
Brian said that it was hoped to supply oxygen to other hospitals in Monrovia. “It seems prudent to ensure that we really can run the plant properly and guarantee a sustainable supply of oxygen, long term, before we roll it out to others,” he added.
The plant will be officially opened on August 31st. Two days before then, there will be the graduation of seven students who have been trained to work in the hospital.
Forty students have been supported by Monrovia Rotary since 2017 as the country seeks to rebuild its fractured medical system.
Brian added: “The Rotary Club of Monrovia will continue to support the needs of the oxygen plant during the settling-in period, until we are confident that it can be passed over totally to the ELWA Hospital.
“For the future, we will continue to monitor and work with the oxygen plant to ensure a smooth transition.
“More medical students are needed and we are currently fundraising and hope to submit a Global Grant in August.”