Yayah’s pharmacy is located at the junction reaching the main road to the main city of Tonkolili, Magburaka. Junctions are always busy trading places. Bike riders and taxis, waiting for the next ride to Makeni, surrounds the pharmacy, together with small traders selling bananas, cotton sticks and chewing gum. The biggest hospital in the district lies 500 meters away. Still Mr. Yayah is a busy man. When he opens the doors to the pharmacy, it is often that customers are cueing outside, waiting for their turn. Many take the opportunity to buy medicines while they are waiting for their ride or just because he is open, available and affordable.
With globalization, Western medicines have become an excessive commodity in much of Africa. Today, drugs can be bought in the smallest village of Sierra Leone and opening a pharmacy or drug shop has become a profitable business. These stores are loaded from floor to the ceiling with colourful medicine packages displaying all kinds of symptoms. The majority of the shops do not have any medically trained employees. Sierra Leone has about 250 licenced pharmacists and less than 450 pharmaceutical technicians and assistants, serving a total population of approximately 5.5 million people. Most shops are under surveillance of the Pharmacy Board and regulated in regards to quality, storage and dispensing of drugs, thus these shops are a safer supplier than the unlicensed and unregulated stores.
Close to the market in the third biggest city in Sierra Leone, Makeni, the door is always open to Poorman’s Pharmacy. It is without question the largest and most stocked pharmacy for many miles and serves a variety of customers. Mr. Poorman reckons himself as a businessman, but has a background in nursing. His knowledge within pharmaceuticals is widespread ranging from supply chain management, quality of medicines to everyday advises on treatments. And Mr. Poorman serves everyone, from the poorest of the poor to wealthy busy men rolling up in their four-wheel drive. Poorman is also a crucial supplier for government health centres, mother-child-health-posts or privately run hospitals.
According to WHO, in Sierra Leone up to 70% of medicines and related supplies are provided by the private sector.