By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
President Julius Maada Bio, on Monday, 7th March, launched the Chinese funded ‘Health-on-Wheels’ project at York Village in the Western Rural District.
The health on wheels project is meant to enhance free and accessible health care services to all the one hundred and forty-nine chiefdoms across Sierra Leone.
While launching the project, President Bio thanked the Government and People of the People’s Republic of China, “who have believed in our vision and invested in that vision.”
He assured China of their continued support, as Ambassador Hu Zhangliang has indicated, “We will continue to work within a spirit of mutual trust and respect to deepen that relationship and expand areas of cooperation.
He said in 2018, he made a pledge to improve the human capital development outcomes of Sierra Leone.
“I did so knowing that only well-educated, healthy, and well-fed citizens can deliver sustainable and inclusive development for this nation,” he said.
He said his commitments in the New Direction Manifesto and the Medium-Term National Development Plan are aligned with the global sustainable goals, and improving human capital development, health, and educational as requirements and drivers of sustainable development in the country.
He said Sierra Leone’s commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage has been evident in “our international commitments, our partnerships with various nations and multilateral institutions, and our efforts to restructure our national health sector.
“Our efforts in the sector have been guided by the dimension of universal healthcare, more and better service, more equitable coverage, and more access both physical access and affordability, and we are one of the few countries in West Africa to invest over 12% of our budget into health care,”he said.
“Since 2018, maternal mortality has been reduced from 1165 to 720 per 100,000 people. Far fewer mothers are dying in child birth. Far fewer infants and children under five are dying. There has been a 100% increase in the number of people living with HIV receiving lifesaving treatment from just over 23,000 in 2017 to over 46,000. Malaria-related deaths have also been reduced by 47% – far fewer people are dying of malaria. Add these to our much-lauded fight against successive waves of COVID-19 and you will see that, in just 4 years, we have made great progress as a nation.”
He said they are inclusive because they have looked very closely at the barriers that citizens in hard-to-reach and far-to-reach areas face in accessing healthcare and education, thus noting that they have also considered the special needs of those populations, and they believe that equal access to services and resources and meaningful inclusion in the full scope of services are a must.
He thanked the government and people of the People’s Republic of China for supporting this “Health-on-Wheels” programme.
“As I indicated earlier, it is intentional, innovative, and inclusive. I have requested the Minister for Health and Sanitation to ensure that over the next four months, each of the 193 Chiefdoms should be visited by the health bus providing services to more than one million people including children, school children, young people, pregnant women, and particularly the elderly,” he said
He said he has also requested that the Ministry of Health undertakes a baseline study and continuously monitor and assess the impact of the initiative on the health outcomes of citizens.
The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hu Zhangliang, thanked President Bio and the Sierra Leonean government for their achievement in social and economic development, particularly in the health sector, albeit facing severe challenges posed by Covid-19.
He said the People’s Republic of China has been working closely with Sierra Leone in the health sector with a view to supporting the latter’s effort in promoting universal health coverage and achieving the relevant targets of the UN sustainable development goals 2030.
He said in 2018 H.E Wang Zhigang, the special envoy of President Xi jinping and Minister of Science and Technology of China attended President Bio’s inauguration, and minister of Science of China considered providing four medical vehicles to support Sierra Leone.
He said through joint effort of the two sides, minister Wang’s pledge has been turned into a reality, and that they were glad that President Bio officially graced the launching.
“The mobile vehicles are installed with general medical devise, and the ministry of health and sanitation of Sierra Leone has deployed special staff to take care of the vehicles and equipment,” he said.
He added that with the new innovation practice, the accessibility and service efficiency of medical care in communities especially in the remote areas they will be effectively increased.
Amb Hu Zhangliang also wished the mobile health clinic project a big success, and promised that they will continue to support Sierra Leone in the health sector.