UK supports free healthcare for mothers and children in Sierra Leone
The emergency programme will be unveiled today at the Sierra Leone investment conference in London and is part of the country's new six year strategy to make healthcare free for pregnant and lactating women and children under five by 2010, and all vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the very poor by 2015.
At the UN General Assembly in September, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown co-hosted a UN event in New York, at which he secured agreement from six countries to remove fees for health services to achieve the goal of universal health care.
This included an announcement from the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma to launch this emergency plan to make free healthcare a reality for pregnant and lactating women and children under five.
The UK funding will be used to help scrap "user fees" and strengthen the country's health system to cope with the increased demand for services.
Studies have shown that these fees are a major barrier for the poorest families, leading to poor health and death from preventable illnesses whilst only generating 5% of health budgets.
The UK's funding to the new health strategy will help:
Support the introduction of a social health insurance scheme that will help the country move towards universal free healthcare in Sierra Leone . Those with jobs will contribute a small percentage of their pay which will be topped up by employers in order to provide better healthcare and social security.
Provide more drugs and better equipment. Efficient and transparent systems for procuring medicine will be introduced as well as strict stock control and monitoring systems to ensure medicine ends up in the hospitals it is intended for. Maternity wards and operating theatres will be receive suitable equipment in order to deliver quality emergency obstetric services, and a transport system will be put in place to provide free referral to larger medical facilities for health emergencies.
Increase the number of trained health workers. A Health Services Commission will be established to retain health staff by improving working conditions and ensuring salaries are at a living standard. Community health workers will be trained to deliver babies safely and a number of new training facilities will be established, including a second midwifery school to train new midwives and a second medical school to train doctors.
Raise awareness. The free healthcare policy will be accompanied by a public awareness raising campaign to enable people to exercise their right to demand free healthcare. This will be supported by staff and marketing materials at all health facilities to reinforce awareness of the change in policy.
Monitoring and Evaluation. A new baseline for performance of health facilities will be agreed with periodic household and health facility surveys to monitor progress. Community-driven institutions, such as village development committees, will be empowered to monitor the provision of health services.