Photos: Isseu Diouf Campbell
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador Sidique Wai held a community briefing on January 17, 2020 in Manhattan, to update African New Yorkers on the case of conjoined twin girls Husainatu and Hasanatu Jalloh, and to deliver two checks of $6,000 each to the parents Isatu and Alusine Jalloh.
The Sierra Leonean government offered $12,000 to the Jalloh family to support their journey to the U.S. Husainatu and Hasanatu Jalloh who are conjoined at the abdomen and share a liver, are scheduled for a separation surgery at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in late February.
Husainatu and Hasanatu were born on September 11, 2019 in Freetown, Sierra Leone to a young couple Isatu and Alusine Jalloh who tied the knot in 2018. The conjoined twins arrived in the world with their brother Cherno who passed away a month later. It was as if his mission was to escort his sisters to the world and once it was accomplished, he left.
Their mother Isatu, now 19 years old, had a smooth pregnancy and did not feel or think that anything unusual was happening. She went to her prenatal visits, but didn’t get any warning. When she gave birth, three babies rather than one appeared. In the Sierra Leonean city of Freetown where they live, there have been rare cases of conjoined twins but they never survived. Husainatu and Hasanatu did.
In the Fula tradition, when something that unusual happens, the children are presented to the community and the parents would ask for help. The young couple Isatu and Alusine Jalloh did not ask for help, yet receive many offers after a video of the twins leaked by a nurse, went viral on social media.
The couple then received an offer to separate the babies from doctors in Italy on condition that Husainatu and Hasanatu be sent alone without their parents because they feared that the couple would run away and stay in Italy after the surgery. The young couple rejected the offer. They also received an offer from an Australian team.
Meanwhile, a very enterprising Sierra Leonean, Zainab Bangura Dalboyi, a respiratory therapist based in Maryland, started working to get the couple to the US. She asked for help on social media with no success. She then contacted several children’s hospitals in the US before remembering that she had a friend who worked at the New York Presbyterian hospital. The friend did not at first take her request seriously but Dalboyi persisted. She sent the babies’ video and diagnostic work to her friend who ended up showing it to a few doctors at the hospital. Two weeks later, Dalboyi received the news that she had hoped for. The hospital agreed to separate the babies for free.
Now it was time to share the news with the family back home and get them to the US. Visas, plane tickets and a place to stay were needed. Zainab Bangura Dalboyi reached out to the organization Women of substance and they purchased the tickets. Abdul Rahim Jalloh, another Sierra Leonean based in NYC, also president of the Fula Progressive Union of NY, started raising funds for the couple and found them a place to stay.
On December 13, 2019, the twins and their parents finally arrived accompanied by two nurses sent by the Sierra Leonean government. At their first medical visit, the doctors at New York Presbyterian hospital noticed that Husainatu and Hasanatu, then 3 months old, needed to gain more weight prior to the separation surgery. The twins returned on the second week of January for the expansion of their stomachs, a necessary procedure performed by Nigerian doctor Thomas Eye, before the actual separation in late February.
A Gofundme page was created by Zainab Bangura Dalboyi. To help the Jalloh family, please visit: