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Page added on October 16, 2012
In Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Change, according to many people. including members of the international community and major opinion-leaders worldwide, is delivering social democracy in a way that is very uncommon in Africa.
He is very confident that the health sector of his Agenda for Change is impacting more on the carefully selected vulnerable groups; pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five, the targets of his Free Health Care initiative. In his closing of parliament statement on the 25th of September 2012, President Koroma stated that “My Government listed Health amongst its first priorities in the Agenda for Change, developed a 5-year National Health Sector Strategic Plan, the Free Health Care Policy; and several other health care policies.”
Authorities at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation are proud that because of the Free Health Care programme, maternal and infant mortalities have been halved. Indeed, recent publications of health care statistics in the Ministry clearly agree with the foregoing assertion. One periodical reads that “The Free Health Care implementation has resulted in a 250 per cent increase in the number of under-five outpatient consultations compared to the period before the launch of the initiative.”
I learnt from one of the many brochures on general health care and Free Health Care initiative in the minister’s waiting room that immunization coverage for children increased from 67 per cent in 2006 to 82 per cent in 2011, and that children sleeping under insecticide treated bed nets have increased by threefold.
A senior member of one of the CSOs in the business of monitoring healthcare delivery service in Sierra Leone explained that “There is rapid improvement in nutritional status of children with 30 per cent increased coverage of vitamin ‘A’ supplementation.” I was entreated to travel into the remotest places in Sierra Leone by the CSO operative, “But Karamoh, all you have to do is to take a tour of the country in the remotest places; like before now, you will hardly see malnourished children or emaciated children with marasmus and kwashiorkor,” the CSOs worker said.
The fact is I am often in these remotest places my civil society operative was entreating me to visit to see for myself. And I must agree that the present picture here in Sierra Leone is quite different from the picture photojournalists compete over in the past with the aim of winning awards for the most egregious photos of suffering Africans in countries like Sierra Leone.
At the PCMH, a key referral maternity hospital, I was informed that ante natal care attendance increased by three-fold as a result of the Free Health Care initiative, and that there is more than 50 per cent reduction in the number of women dying from pregnancy related complications at public hospitals.
The Deputy Health Minister, Tamba Borbor Sawyer said “Between April 2010 and March 2011, the Free Health Care initiative led to nearly 2 million additional under five consultations, over 39,000 more women delivered their babies in a health facility and 12,000 maternity complications were managed in health facilities with a 60 per cent drop in the fatality rate in these cases.” Figures at the Ministry however indicate an increase of 800 to 12,000 admission cases in the hospital in the same period.
The Government of Sierra Leone has also commenced a free treatment of malaria programme for all age groups in all public hospitals. Malaria is a killer disease that is responsible for the sharp increase in infant mortality in Sierra Leone, health officials stated. They also stated that with the free malaria treatment programme; infant mortality will be dented seriously.
With all of these programmes geared towards the improvement of the well body bisness here in Sierra Leone, President Koroma has increased salaries of health workers astronomically and has also increased their numbers by 1,282 from 7,164 in 2009 to a total of 8,446 in 2011, and still counting.
There has been an over 100 per cent increase in the availability, accessibility and affordability of safe and effective drugs. The Government of Sierra Leone has also embark on massive health care facility infrastructural projects such as the construction of new medical stores in all the 14 districts in the country, the construction of ultra-modern health care facilities, renovation of all existing health care facilities across the nation, etc. Medical workers confirmed that there is a total of 1,190 fully functional health care facilities compare to 843 in 2006. Now, basic emergency obstetric care centres, each in all the 13 districts were established and garnished by a school of training of mid-wives in Makeni city about 140 km from Freetown, to make child-delivery less difficult for expecting mothers in remote places.
There is a growing sentiment here amongst members of the disable and the aging populations that they have been left out for now. But now that the President is gearing up to an Agenda for Prosperity in his new manifesto for second term the governing-All Peoples Congress (APC) is expecting to win, the disable and aging populations are very hopeful and encouraged by the projected 32.5 GDP growth on the horizon. These two vulnerable groups believe that their compassionate President Koroma will find a way to fund health care for them fully or at least partially, especially now that the President is about to introduce the Sierra Leone Health Insurance Scheme.
By Karamoh Kabba
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