Women Struggling To Find Truly Free Health Care In Sierra Leone's System, Amnesty International Report Says

“Sierra Leone’s free health care plan for pregnant women and young children is dysfunctional and hobbled by corruption and a lack of accountability,” according to a report (.pdf) released Tuesday by Amnesty International, Agence France-Presse reports. The nation’s free health care program for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five years old was launched in April 2010 with support from UNICEF, the World Bank, the WHO and the U.K. Department for International Development, AFP notes (9/6).

According to the report, women are sometimes asked to pay for medicines they cannot afford, health care “is frequently substandard, disparities persist between rural and urban maternal health services, and in some clinics drugs are simply unavailable,” AlertNet writes (Curtis, 9/6). The government of Sierra Leone is taking “steps to increase women’s access to health services, [by] increasing the pay of health workers and providing those workers with additional training. However, much remains to be done,” according to an Amnesty International press release (9/6). “Sierra Leone’s government needs to boost systems of monitoring and accountability, Amnesty said,” AlertNet notes (9/6).