By Mohamed Massaquoi in Kenema
Health Alert Sierra Leone, in collaboration with Save the Children, has launched a nationwide campaign on the inclusion of the Free Healthcare policy in the ongoing Constitutional Review Process to ensure that the public healthcare initiative is codified by law.
The Free Healthcare for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five was launched on 27 April 2010 by President Earnest Bai Koroma as part of his government’s strategy to reducing maternal and child mortality rate in the country, a move which saw the abolition of service fees, provision of drugs and free treatment to the aforementioned category of people in public health facilities across the country.
According to Programme and Communication Manager at Health Alert, William Sao Lamin, who was speaking in Kenema, it is significant that the policy be enacted into law so that issues of healthcare service delivery can be treated seriously. He said they have embarked on a nationwide tour to collect signatories from stakeholders and beneficiaries in a bid to encourage government to promulgate Free Healthcare into a legally binding obligation by the state.
He noted that prior to the launch of the scheme, money was a major barrier preventing women and children to access health facilities, thus a good number of women sought alternatives from traditional healers instead of going to the hospital, which invariably increased the death rate among pregnant women and their children.
“Since the launch of the free healthcare initiative, cost is no longer a barrier to women because the healthcare scheme is operating across the country even though there are challenges. As a result of the previous experience, we saw the need as a civil society outfit on health to launch a campaign across the country in order to make the healthcare facility a law. Save the Children and other partners have been very instrumental in advocating and calling for the sustainability and maintenance of the free healthcare by making it a constitutional rights for these set of people in Sierra Leone,” he said, adding that it was imperative that Sierra Leoneans add their voices to the campaign which is meant to benefit the generations yet unborn.
The Free Health Care initiative is set to benefit 1.2 million mothers and children across the country.