Honey for hospital: A look at Bees for development Ghana’s project in Sierra Leone

Honey is an ancient medicine that has stood the test of time and is widely appreciated across African cultures for its health benefits.

The Masanga Hospital in Tongolili District in Sierra Leone has a long history of effective treatment of wounds and ulcers with honey.

Patients from all over the country and neighbouring West African countries including Guinea, Liberia and The Gambia have received treatment from the Hospital.

Patients with wounds caused by leprosy have received healing from the Wound Clinic of this referral and teaching Hospital.

Specialist doctors at the Hospital have used honey for wound healing with amazing results. The major challenge facing Masanga Hospital has been the lack of good and/or quality honey for the over 500 patients who visit the clinic every year.

According to Dr Jonathan Van Nunes, the Medical Officer in Charge, the only source of honey has come from local honey hunters.

These hunters fell trees and burn bee colonies to extract honey under unhygienic conditions. Dr Van Nunes stated that even though the quality of honey from the hunters was questionable, the Hospital has no alternative sources.

Tamba had an amazing story to tell of his life. Some years back he had been healed of any ulcer at Masanga Hospital and now works full time in the same Hospital as a Wound Dressing Specialist. As a young man, Tamba helped his father on the farm until civil war broke out.

One day as they worked on the farm, they were suddenly attacked by the rebels who killed his father.

He managed to escape into the forest but unfortunately for him there was a black cobra which bit him on the right ankle.

He was air lifted by military helicopter to Freetown Government Hospital for treatment.

The snake bite developed into an ulcer which refused to heal.

Tamba tried several medications prescribed by doctors, herbalists and others but with no positive results.

He was advised to visit Masanga Hospital which was at that time known for effective treatment of wounds and leprosy patients.

On arrival the doctors dressed his ulcer with honey only and within two weeks his ulcer was healed and was subsequently prepared for skin grafting. Whilst his wounds healed, Tamba used his time helping out at the wound clinic, working hard to the admiration of the doctors.

He was subsequently trained to dress wounds and later employed full time in the Hospital as a wound dressing specialist. He is very happy and passionate about his work and especially the use of honey for dressing wounds.

The Beekeeping Training Workshop
Bees for development Ghana (BfdG) and Bees for Development (BfD) UK, trained selected staff members and farmers from five adjoining villages to keep bees to produce quality honey for the Wound Clinic.

They organised a five-day Training Workshop to develop production apiaries on the 600 acres of forest land owned by the Hospital.

The participating farmers will also keep bees and produce honey and beeswax which will augment that from the Hospital’s apiaries.

Marketing opportunities for surplus honey will be explored by the Hospital and the farmers to improve income levels.

BfdG and BfD taught participants basic honey bee behaviour, hive construction using timber (top-bar hives) and local materials (grass, palm fronds and raffia palm) to make basket hives. These were for an apiary at a selected site in the forest. The participants were also taught how to set up their hives to attract and manage bee colonies.

At the end of the Workshop, all participants including Dr Van Nunes were fully prepared and ready to establish apiaries that will produce and supply quality honey for effective wound dressing at the Hospital.

As the new beekeepers of the Project grow their hive numbers, BfdG and BfD’s expectations are that viable trade of honey, beeswax and other hive products will develop in Masanga and other parts of Tongolili District.

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