In Tubmanburg, the capital of Bomi Country, we left behind the paved highway from Monrovia and ventured onto a network of dusty roads to get to the county’s main hospital.
Originally built and administered by a mining company in the area, Bomi Hospital is now state-run and serves as the best-equipped medical facility in the county. The hospital’s pharmacist, Bockarie Sakilla, is one of Accountability Lab Liberia’s Integrity Idols. Integrity Idol is a global campaign to find, honor and support honest civil servants who can push for positive change within government. The visit to Bockarie’s workplace forms part of a Contribution Tracing study with our partners at the Open Society Foundations aimed at determining the impact past idols are having on practices, policies and procedures in their respective agencies. A relatively new way of evaluating impact, Contribution Tracing allows us to test the validity of a particular claim about an intervention, in this case Integrity Idol Liberia.
Bockarie is a spirited and humble civil service whose commitment to his work is apparent the minute you meet him. He enjoys talking about his work and is eager to show us around the hospital and introduce us to his colleagues. A few things become abundantly clear in just a short visit. Firstly, Bockarie carries his Integrity Idol title with great pride, and his colleagues share in that pride. His colleague, James Saah, told us that “[he] was so proud that his superior was honored, because it reflects on their whole department.”
This pride goes hand in hand with Bockarie and his colleagues’ positivity and vision amidst challenges. They are keenly aware of their resource constraints, but that does not stop them from seeking support and funds to improve service-delivery at their hospital. During the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014, the need to improve hygiene in medical facilities was obvious and Bockarie formed part of a group of pharmacists trained to produce high-quality alcohol. He envisions training more pharmacists and scaling production to ensure that more hospitals and clinics across the country have access to this life-saving tool.
Due to lack of funding for staff to produce the alcohol, the project has come to a halt for the time being, but the team at Bomi Hospital are not giving up. Showing us the room where the alcohol is produced, James hands me a small bottle of alcohol from the last batch they prepared a few months ago. Each bottle is labeled ” Clean hands save lives,” and he insists on me taking a bottle with me. He explained that they have all the equipment and raw materials needed for the process, but they lack the funds for distilled water. $10 would buy enough distilled water to produce approximately one gallon of alcohol, and when they are unable to produce any, nurses and doctors “improvise” to create a sanitary environment for patients.
The connection between clean hands in the medical field, and the integrity displayed by the team at the hospital could not be more profound. Being honored as an Integrity Idol heightened Bockarie’s motivation to make a difference. The award made him realize that the work they were doing, and the integrity with which they did it, was noticed by others without him knowing it. His renewed motivation had an impact on his whole team. They are clearly dedicated individuals and Bockarie has a vision for improving hygiene in healthcare, but he needs support. Through Integrity Idol we are now focusing on how we can work with incredible change-makers like Bockarie to build coalitions and push for the broader service delivery and governance changes that are needed within their societies.
Our team is sifting through more than 2,000 nomination forms to find Liberia’s 4th group of Integrity Idols. As we learn and improve the Integrity Idol campaign with every iteration, we strive to get better at identifying individuals who have both the desire to cultivate positive change in their community, as well as the integrity and drive to have an impact in their agencies. Once we find them we hope our support can slowly begin to change the practice of and narrative around the civil service.
Cheri-Leigh Erasmus was recently in Bomi County, Liberia conducting a contribution tracing study around Integrity Idol with support form the Open Society Foundation.
For more information or to contact Cheri directly please send an email her directly.