Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Healthcare for Women and Children in Sierra Leone

In April of 2010, Sierra Leone implemented a policy of free healthcare for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children under five. The policy has reduced mortality rates for pregnant women and deaths from malaria for small children.

Robert Yates, a senior health economist in Britain’s Department for International Development said the results in Sierra Leone have been “nothing short of spectacular.” His figures suggest a 214 percent increase in the number of children under 5 getting care at health facilities, a 61 percent decrease in mortality rates in difficult pregnancy cases, and an 85 percent drop in the malaria fatality rate for children.

Government figures show that since the introduction of the initiative, more women are accessing antenatal care and delivering their babies in health facilities. However, many women continue to face serious challenges in accessing the drugs and medical care crucial for safe pregnancy and childbirth. An Amnesty International report, At a Crossroads: Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care Policy, revealed that many women are being charged for the care they receive. The report called upon Sierra Leone to strengthen and establish systems of monitoring and accountability to ensure health care interventions are accessible to women and girls and to guarantee their access to effective remedies for violations of their human rights.

Although challenges remain, the new policy has dramatically improved material health within Sierra Leone.

- Madeline R. Lee 

SOURCE: New York Times