According to a recent report by the Central Intelligence Agency, Sierra Leone is ranked second to last in the world for its infant mortality rate.
The report states that the death total is 158.27 deaths/1,000 live births of which male: 175.39 deaths/1,000 live births and female: 140.65 deaths/1,000 live births.
A government specialist pediatrician, Dr Donald Taqi, has admitted that if Sierra Leone as a country does not think seriously about health care delivery for under five children then the country will continue to hit the rock bottom on the infant mortality rate index in the world.
“There are only four government pediatricians and another four in the private practice catering for over 45% of the population which are children.
He said there are three government pediatricians in Freetown and only one in Bo… for the other districts there are no pediatrician,” he disclosed.
“This has been the primary reason for this high infant mortality rate in the country-the unavailability of trained doctors for children”, Dr Taqi averred.
He said there were five major illness children went to hospital for, “which are malaria, measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition and when they go with these illnesses they will need a trained and qualified doctor to diagnose and treat these illnesses”.
“But the high cost of medication is posing another big problem,” he stated.
He said this had to stop “if we are to save our children, under-fives and pregnant women, they should have free treatment, it is the only way we can reduce the mortality rates.”
He said this is where the government should come in as “they have to provide the resources and tools to see that it is possible for children and pregnant women to get free treatment.”
Dr Taqi said they were trying to give training to intermediate health care givers to be able to give qualified treatment to children even before they could see a pediatrician. The doctor called this task shifting.
Another face to the fight against mortality is the community component. This, Dr Taqi said, included the family.
“Most times -90% of the children die at home. This means that the parents are not informed about these illnesses and when to seek professional help,” he noted.
The doctor talked about an integrated management of childhood illness for a complete child health care delivery which, he said, involved the health worker training, health facility, and families and community.
“Families and communities need to be educated and empowered to help with the fight against infant mortality,” Dr Taqi stressed.