Back to Main

December 07, 2010

Motivators: Sierra Leone's Aminata Kanu

Aminata Kanu


This is the third in a series of interviews with participants at the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health’s Learning Collaborative Forum in Addis Ababa on motivation – what motivates them and how do they motivate others. Aminata Kanu is the MLI country lead in Sierra Leone.


Q: What gets you motivated?

A: I grew up partly in Sierra Leone and partly in the UK and worked in a number of different countries. In 2008 – at the time I hadn’t been to Sierra Leone for about 18 years – my father died and I went back home for the funeral. When I arrived, I had some help from the military in the form of transportation to take us around. The chief of defense, a close friend of ours, let us use his vehicle.

I got the opportunity to meet a lot of military people at that time. I found out they couldn’t afford to pay for drugs if they had malaria or anything else. The military hospital, which when I was a child was one of the best in the country, now was one of the worst in Africa, probably. It has 300 beds and it doesn’t even have a doctor. That kind of motivated me. I saw for myself that this wasn’t right. I knew what had started the war. You can’t be giving people guns and not treat them well.

So I went back to the UK, started a small charity that raised funds for the military hospital in Freetown. A year later, I moved back to Sierra Leone and volunteered with the Ministry of Health, and the rest, as they say, is history. The long and the short of it is when I see a need, it motivates me. When I go to the Children’s Hospital, and I see the need, I’ll make a phone call to someone in the UK and ask if they can help out.

Q: What makes your job work as MLI country lead?

A: First and foremost is that I am based in country. Secondly, I am a Sierra Leonean, which means I understand the culture, I understand the behaviors, I can tell when someone is lying, or when someone is trying to get away with doing something. Also, because I started volunteering with the Ministry when I arrived last year, it means I started with a lot of respect from people I had been working with. I do understand the system, I know the difficulties they are under, the pressures they have, what makes it work. They see me as one of them.

Q: What’s your main goal as MLI country lead?

A: To have a donor coordination and harmonization plan. Even if it’s a virtual pool fund – where they don’t have to put money in a basket that is run by somebody – but they have to say how much money they are putting in. That’s one of our problems: We don’t know what everyone (donors) have (for a budget). I think that would be worth celebrating, a great big win, if we could get better coordination.

Photo Credit Dominic Chavez

Other Motivators:

Amara Koroma, director of financial services, and Dr. Samuel A.S. Kargbo, director of reproductive health in Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Dr. Issa Bara Berthe, chief of statistics and information division at the Ministry of Health in Mali.

Dr. Bocar Mamadou Daff, director of reproductive health in Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Khadka Bahadur Basyal Sarki, State Minister in the Ministry of Health and Population in Nepal.

Roman Tesfaye, director general of the Policy, Plan & Finance General Directorate in the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia.