Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

“But the Free Health Care Initiative has not happened without challenges, the greatest of which are the aspects of sustainability of this plausible scheme and also the enhancement of the quality of services offered in the health facilities,” Koroma writes. Though “more of our resources are allocated to health, … we must rely on the continued support of international development partners,” including the U.K. government, he says, concluding, “I would urge our partners, governments, aid agencies, charities like Save the Children, to continue supporting us, and all the other developing nations, on the world stage. We are delighted about what has been achieved already, but there is so much more to do” (5/4).