In Sierra Leone, pregnant women and girls are often unable to access lifesaving treatment because they are too poor to pay for it. One in eight women risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth. This is one of the highest maternal death rates in the world.
Thousands of women bleed to death after giving birth. Most die in their homes. Some die on the way to hospital, in taxis, on motorbikes, or on foot. In Sierra Leone, less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities.
On April 27, 2010, Sierra Leone's Independence Day, the government of Sierra Leone implemented a free-care policy for pregnant and lactating women and children under five. The government, donors, and NGOs are currently working to ensure that things are in place through several working groups. These include a procurement group to ensure drugs and medical supplies are available, a human resources group to ensure there are enough medical staff, a health-financing group and a communications group to inform the population about the policy.
Political will from the government of Sierra Leone is there to ensure the free health care policy is in place, but there are several issues that still need to be addressed in order for the quality of care to be improved and rates of maternal deaths significantly reduced. These include living wages for medical staff, improved infrastructure, and community sensitization to ensure that women are aware of their right to maternal health, among others.
Read the cases of Adama Turay, Hawa Dabor, Emmah Bangura, Simethy Sesay, and Mary and Aminata, and write to the government of Sierra Leone, acknowledging their efforts but also calling for wider systematic changes in order to significantly improve the lives of pregnant women in Sierra Leone.