Save the Children Sierra Leone one of the renowned child-rights non-governmental organisations in Sierra Leone has called for the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) to be included as an entrenched clause in the reviewed constitution.
Presenting the said recommendation on Monday 29th May to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) on behalf of a coalition of like non-governmental organisations including Health Alert, the Executive Director of Health Alert, Victor Koroma commended President Ernest Bai Koroma for the health care initiative.
He laudable the venture noting that it needs to be maintained and sustained in order to portray its fullest potential and significance to the children and women of Sierra Leone., which is why civil society organisations are advocating for the consideration of the FHCI in the ongoing constitutional review process and its entrenched inclusion in the reviewed Constitution.
“We want it to be statutory so that it continues and cannot be changed when there is a change of government,” Victor Koroma stated, adding, “maintaining and keeping the FHCI in the constitution will guarantee the continuity of what has proved to be an effective policy directed at addressing maternal and child health challenges.” He maintained that the FHCI should be a legacy to Sierra Leone women and children of today, tomorrow and forever.
Mr. Koroma noted that as a result of the free health care Initiative, coverage of essential health services has soared and the financial burden on maternal and child health care service management “has dramatically reduced” pointing out that statistics has shown that out-patient health services use by children has increased by 214%. He said preliminary results from the 2013 District Health Survey (DHS) reveals that skilled birth attendance has risen to 60% and child mortality is on the decrease.
He maintained that if the right to free health care is enshrined in the constitution, “Sierra Leone would be following the lead of many countries in the world, but taking the lead in the West Africa region in ensuring that the health and safety of its citizens are protected,” he stated.
The Health Alert Director stressed that there is a growing concern within government circle, civil society groups and development partners for the sustainability of the FCHI as it faces serious challenges due to the late payment of funds from development partners and the mismanagement and wrong disbursement of drugs by various medical practitioners in government hospitals.
He appealed on that basis to the Constitutional Review Committee to include the FCHI in the ongoing constitutional review with an entrenched clause that the state shall provide free health care services for pregnant and lactating women and children under five, with consideration for the handicap community.
The Executive Secretary of Constitutional Review Committee, Samuel Coker responded that the presentation was in place, and noted the importance of the FHCI describing it as a significant development in the health sector. He assured that the Committee will ensure the prominence the FHCI deserves in the ongoing constitutional review process. He observed that given the turnout of people at the ceremony, it was clear indication that the initiative is beneficial and that Sierra Leoneans are appreciative of it.
Sengbeh Thompson of Save the Children Sierra Leone thanked the CRC for the opportunity to present their appeal document and for assuring the consideration of the document in the review process.
She called on government to address bottlenecks that are impeding the smooth and proper implementation of the FHCI and to institute a Health Care Financing Policy to help address the challenges in health care financing, establishing a country-wide monitoring scheme. He added that inclusion of the FCHI in the new constitution “is an opportunity Sierra Leoneans must not allow to slip from their hands” stressing that it is a moment to secure progressive realisation of a right to health for all peoples in Sierra Leone, and concluded that a free maternal, new born and child health service is a stepping stone to universal health coverage.
By Mariam Bah
Wednesday May 21, 2014