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Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 12:54 UK

Diary: Sierra Leone slum clinic

Kroo Bay woman
Food prices in Kroo Bay have gone up by 30-40% in the last year

Staff at a clinic in the coastal slum of Kroo Bay, in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, are keeping a diary of their working lives for the BBC News website.

Here, Bintu, a midwife, talks about how high food prices are leaving people hungry and malnourished.

Parents are really struggling to afford food for their families, and children are being affected.

They are are more likely to be malnourished and more likely to get sick.

Expensive

The children here in Kroo Bay are eating less.

Before, they might have eaten three times a day.

Vegetables for sale
Children are skipping school to make money to buy food

Now most of them only eat twice, and some are surviving on just one meal a day.

Food prices have really gone up in the last year. Everything is so expensive.

Last year a bag of rice was 90,000 leones ($30). This year it is 120,000 or 130,000 leones ($40 or $45).

With prices so high now, even the traders in the market are complaining.

They say the only profit they make is the bag the rice came in.

I have caught traders trying to cheat you and give you less than you have paid for.

Balanced diet

The majority of people in Kroo Bay now live on meals that have already been cooked for them.

Cooking for yourself is too expensive because you have to buy the rice, the coal and the palm oil, as well as the pepper and anything else you want.

Instead, you can buy a plate of cooked rice for 1500 leones (US 50 cents), or a plate of stew for 2000 (US 70 cents).

That is what most people eat.

View of Kroo Bay

The other problem is that the food people here are eating is not providing a balanced diet.

Those people that can afford to prepare meals for themselves will only cook rice with palm oil and chilli.

It only contains carbohydrates, no protein.

Or parents may give their children gari - ground roasted cassava - which also contains nothing but carbohydrates.

That's the problem - the children are only getting carbohydrates in their diet.

Many more children are now collecting scrap metal, or old flip flops and other things to sell so that they can buy food.

It may be enterprising, but it means the children spend less time going to school.

Their parents don't like it, but what can they say? They do not have the money to feed them.

Embarrassment

We are also seeing more cases of diarrhoea and vomiting now.

Many people with these illnesses don't come to the clinic.

Often people will refuse to come to us because they feel embarrassed.

Last week a woman who lived right next to the clinic had vomiting and diarrhoea.

I went and asked her people to bring her to the clinic, but they refused and got a private nurse for her instead.

The woman died.

The Kroo Bay clinic staff
The Kroo Bay clinic staff are keeping a joint diary

Save the Childrenis running an interactive website where Kroo Bay residents answer questions about their lives. Visitors will be able to access 360-degree images of the site, and catch up with the latest news from the slum through regular "webisodes".


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