CSOs want free healthcare included in the constitution

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April 29, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

As the eighty-man committee selected to review the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone continues its work, Save the Children International and partners have presented a recommendation to the Constitutional Review Committee for the free healthcare initiative to be included in the revised constitution.

Reading a release to journalists at the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL) conference hall on Kingharman Road in Freetown, Monday, 27 April, Manager for Everyone Campaign at Save the Children said prior to the introduction of the free healthcare initiative, the country was recording one of the lowest survival rates for children and women during childbirth.

Joana Tom Kargbo reckoned that the country was commemorating the 5th anniversary of the free healthcare initiative which was launched by President Ernest Bai Koroma on 27 April, 2010 and geared towards reducing unacceptable deaths of vulnerable pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five.

She said President Koroma launched the initiative with the intention to reverse Sierra Leone’s unenviable position as one of the deadliest places in the world to give birth and to be born, noting that World Bank statistics indicated that one woman died while giving birth in every 112 births in Sierra Leone, 2.5 times higher than in Ghana, 42.4 times higher than in the United States of America, and 222.5 times higher than in Sweden.

She continued that nearly one in five children born in Sierra Leone dies before they reach the age of five.

She said progress in health has been incremental, and that international donors, including the UK Department for International Development and Aid Organization, remain committed to helping as the country has experienced tremendous improvement in health and sanitation.

“The Free Healthcare Initiative, despite its challenges, has helped save lives of many of our children and women from preventable deaths. The initiative has helped in strengthening the health system. The initiative’s results were laudable as access to malaria treatment for under five children increased from 300 to 933 in 2010, and 1,933 in 2011 and statistics showed that 126,400 women delivered their babies in a healthy facility,” she said.

She maintained that the government was now expected to sustain the initiative by including it in the new constitution as the services must be provided freely to all pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five in the country.

Speaking on behalf of children from the Children Advocacy Network, Haja Fanta Fofanah said they were happy that Save the Children International and other partners were advocating for the initiative to be included in the constitution.

Also speaking, Record Officer at the Constitutional Review Committee, Julius Brima Cole, said he would relay the message to the committee by way of filing their recommendations.

He welcomed the idea that the free healthcare initiative was one of hundreds of recommendations to the CRC, and promised they would look into them. He implored everyone to read the draft constitution when it comes out, in 2016.