UK Reinforces its commitment to the delivery of Sierra Leoneâ€™s Free Health Care Initiative
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Government of Sierra Leone are working together to reduce maternal and child mortality across the country through the provision of Free Health Care to pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five, which will come into effect on Independence Day, 27 April 2010.
Sierra Leone has some of the worst maternal and child mortality statistics in the world with maternal mortality currently standing at 857 per 100,000 live births (13 in the UK) and child mortality at 140 per 1,000 live births (6 in the UK). The successful implementation of the free health Initiative will fundamentally transform womenâ€™s and childrenâ€™s health in Sierra Leone.
In a determined effort to improve the situation the President of Sierra Leone announced his commitment to offer Free Health Care to pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children under five at an event hosted by the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick and the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown during the September 2009 United Nations General Assembly meeting. It is anticipated this initiative will benefit approximately 230,000 women and nearly one million infants in its first year. President Koroma noted that abolishing user fees removes the biggest obstacle to accessing health care by pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-fives.
Mr Brown voiced his views about the importance of free health careâ€¦..â€™ the poverty I saw in Africa convinced me that without empowerment through free education and free health care, then this generation in sub-Saharan Africa will not have the opportunity to rise out of poverty and will never be fully freeâ€¦..â€¦.The greatest of injustices demands the boldest of actionsâ€™â€™
$ 7 million worth of medicines and medical consumables have already been procured for the countryâ€™s Free Health Care initiative. The procurement of these drugs has been paid for by the UK through DFID and undertaken by UNICEF.
Improved conditions of service for health workers are also crucial to the success of this initiative. UK aid will also be provided through DFID to support the increase in health workers salaries which the Government is proposing.
â€œWe are supporting this programme in response to His Excellency the Presidentâ€™s courageous commitment to provide Free Health Care. Delivering this ambitious programme will require the active support and engagement not just of Government and its development partners, but of health workers, civil society groups and ordinary citizens. The UK is determined to play its part in improving the health of women and children in this country, and we call on others to do the same.â€, said Dominic O Neill, DFID Head of Office in Sierra Leone. â€œÂ
Max Lawson, Oxfam’s UK policy adviser, welcomed the new thrust of DFIDâ€™s approach: “Free public healthcare should be the norm for the poorest countries: fees for health care are lethal.”UK Aid, UK
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