When Alpha Bangura heard that Last Mile Health was starting operations in his home country of Sierra Leone, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. As Last Mile Health’s Senior Technical Coordinator for Sierra Leone, Alpha provides support to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in their programmatic engagements, drawing on his 15+ years of experience in the public health sector.
Alpha’s interest in community health and development began in 2002, shortly after the decade-long civil war ended. After graduating from Njala University in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began working with the Norwegian Refugee Council, providing support to the NGO in a number of different areas including women’s rights, education activities, and emergency preparedness and response. As their activities began to wind down, Alpha joined ActionAid International Sierra Leone as District Manager for two different districts. During his six year tenure, it became clear to him that the health of the women and children in the districts he served was especially fragile due to lasting impacts from the civil war. Alpha knew that the wellbeing of the community was crucial to its long-term sustainability, and developed a number of different programs to strengthen health facilities and schools across the country.
After the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Alpha worked as a Program Development Specialist for USAID. In this role he worked with USAID health, governance, and agriculture and food security projects to support the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ebola recovery work. Building on this experience of providing community health services across Sierra Leone, Alpha became the National Coordinator for the Ministry of Health-led National Community Health Workers Program in 2017. Although he found the transition from the private sector to government work challenging, Alpha ultimately excelled at providing support and training to community health workers at the national, district, and community levels. With the deep understanding that “community health workers are the heart of community health – they are their communities,” he saw this position as a unique opportunity to contribute to national health system strengthening efforts.
Alpha joined our team in 2019, and his leadership has been essential in deepening our understanding of the health system context and building strong relationships with the Ministry of Health and key partners. Having worked in all 16 districts in Sierra Leone, Alpha brings with him a wealth of institutional knowledge and a number of relationships that he has been able to leverage in this role. He also brings with him a deep admiration for Last Mile Health, having followed the organization’s work in neighboring Liberia for a number of years. In reflecting on his time with Last Mile Health, he shared, “it’s not every day you find an organization with similar values as your own. There is absolutely no door within the Ministry of Health I won’t knock on for Last Mile Health.”
Alpha hopes that as we continue to strengthen our relationship with the Ministry of Health, we will become one of their trusted partners. Our initial partnership with the Ministry focuses on ensuring the health workforce has the knowledge and capabilities to manage, deliver, and sustain community-based primary care in all communities. We are supporting the design and digitization of a new training package for community health workers and supervisors that is aligned with the country’s revised strategy for community health. The Ministry of Health has also adapted our COVID-19 Digital Classroom content for frontline health worker training, ensuring that content is updated and relevant for health workers in Sierra Leone. The content complements existing Ministry messaging and training on COVID-19, and was developed in partnership with our contacts. Collectively, these initiatives will strengthen the country’s community health workforce on a national scale, helping extend essential primary healthcare to all Sierra Leoneans.
As he thinks about our future engagement in Sierra Leone, Alpha knows that trust from the Ministry is paramount. “We are meeting the Ministry where they are. This is critical. How do we merge our priorities, and where do we align? Once we are able to draw those lines that will guide us to develop the right programs and activities together with the Ministry. That will give us a clear direction on where we can meet the Ministry to support them,” he said. He is also ready to help lead this new chapter at Last Mile Health, stating, “My work, for 15 years, has been with communities. Most of my work has been right down there at the community level. Seeing Last Mile Health’s vision, I knew I wanted to be part of that.”