To turn around the dismal infant and maternal mortality statistics which rank Sierra Leone as one of the worst places in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday launched the free health care programme for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) east of the capital.
The historic occasion took place on the 49th independence anniversary of the country.
Launching the initiative President Koroma proclaimed that “from this independence Day (April 27), every pregnant woman, breastfeeding mother and child under five years of age will be entitled to free health care in every government health facility in the country”.
He explained that this covers pre-natal check-ups to surgical services, drugs, vaccinations and inpatient hospital care, maintain that “no pregnant woman, breast feeding mother or child under five would have to pay a single Leone.”
President Koroma reiterated his assurance to the nation “that I am determined to make this policy work”.
He pointed out that “you may have heard hollow promises from politicians before about free services, but in the past these announcements have not been backed up by other actions. This time it will be different” he promised.
My government, he said, “is making this happen because we believe that mother hood should be a blessing to our families, and not a threat to a woman’s life. We believe that a child should be a bundle of joy and not a source of tears and despair.”
“We in Sierra Leone are one of the first countries in our region to help the women and children in this way, I am confident that by taking this bold action Sierra Leone’s health indicators will soon over take those of many of our neighbors”, he stated.
He maintained that the success of this policy depends on the skills and care of our hard working health professionals, stating that his government has doubled the salaries of most health workers and even more for our most skilled workers.
By making this commitment, he emphasized that, “we the government will pay the health workers so that the children and pregnant women of this nation don’t have this responsibility.”
He pronounced that “from April 27, no health worker should demand any fees from a child under five or from a pregnant or lactating woman”.
Vice President Sam Sumana speaking as Pro Tem Minister of Health recalled that our maternal mortality rate is not encouraging according to international standards.
He stated that, to make this initiative successful, government and its international partners have mobilized drugs and other equipments worth $ 10 Million for this free health care initiative.
The UN Secretary General’s Executive Representative (ERSG) Michael Von Schulenburg who spoke on behalf of the international partners, assured the government of their continued support to the free health care programme. Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mohamed Koroma said that this free health care will help transform our current maternal and infant mortality indicators.
After the launching women pregnant sang this song “we dae born Ernest dae pay.
Speaking to one pregnant woman, Adama Kargbo, she thanked the President and donors for reducing the burden of paying hospitals bills.
Free Bennimix feeding was given to more than 100 children present at the launching from the Bennimix company as their own contribution to the free health. Musical performance and short skit by Wan Pot comedians climaxed the launching. By Abibatu Kamara