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$7 million worth of medicines on their way for Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care Initiative

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 19 March 2010 – Pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of five in Sierra Leone will be the beneficiaries of $ 7 million worth of medicines and medical consumables that have been procured for the country’s Free Health Care initiative which will be launched on Independence day, 27th April. 

The procurement of these drugs has been funded by the UK through the Department for International Development (DFID).

Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal and child mortality indicators in the world. According to the recently released Demographic and Health Survey 2008, maternal and child mortality rates stand at 856 out of 100,000 and 89 out of 1,000 live births respectively.

Out of every 1,000 children, 140 die before they reach their fifth birthday. Around 1.2 million mothers and children will benefit from the abolition of user fees from 27th April when the Free Health Care initiative is launched across the whole country.

“We have funded this programme in response to His Excellency the President’s courageous commitment to provide Free Health Care. The main blockage to people accessing health treatment are the charges being imposed, this has contributed to the terrible maternal and child deaths we see in Sierra Leone.

The UK is committed to improving the health of women and children in this country”, said Dominic O Neill, DFID Country Director in Sierra Leone. “We value our partnership with UNICEF who have procured these drugs and will oversee their delivery to health facilities throughout the country by 27th April”. 

His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma announced that he was committed to providing free health care to pregnant women, nursing mothers and all children under 5 years of age at an event in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York on 24th September 2009. 

The President shared a stage at the event with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Head of the World Bank Bob Zolleick. Mr Brown voiced his views about the importance of free health care: ‘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 free...The greatest of injustices demands the boldest of actions’

Max Lawson, Oxfam's UK Policy Adviser, welcomed the new thrust of DFID’s approach: "Free public healthcare should be the norm for the poorest countries: fees for health care are lethal."

“The Free Health Care policy is a demonstration of our commitment to prioritize the Health sector and improve the general condition of pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of five in the country”, said Mohamed Koroma, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation. “We shall further tackle the problem of leakages of drugs so that they reach the right beneficiaries and on time”. 

“Stop this trend of needless deaths among children under the age of five, pregnant women and nursing mothers!” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “In fact, untimely deaths among this category of persons are violations of their fundamental right to life. If the Free Health Care is implemented well, Sierra Leone will indeed, become a country fit for women and children and will be better positioned to meet some of the benchmarks on health that are set out in the Millennium Development Goals”.   

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation collaborates with UNICEF, UK Aid, World Bank, WHO, UNFPA, Save the Children, Search for Common Grounds and civil society organizations to make this initiative a success. 

For more information, please contact:
Jonathan Abass Kamara,
Ministry of Health and Sanitation
tel:+(232) 76 678 021

Alessandro Moscuzza
UK Aid
tel: + (232) 22 233 620

Issa Davies
UNICEF Sierra Leone
tel: + (232) 76 601 310



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