Is Sierra Leone's Free Healthcare Program for Pregnant Women and Children Working?

September 7, 2011

By Kim Lanegran, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Sierra Leone

sierra leone mother and babyIt’s been a little over a year since the government of Sierra Leone launched its groundbreaking free healthcare program for children and pregnant women.

While we’re thrilled about the good news — more women now receive pre and post-natal health care, over 39,000 women delivered their babies in health care facilities, and many lives have been saved — there is still a lot to be done.

Amnesty International’s new report on the Free Health Policy finds that free adequate care is simply not being delivered.

Three major problems continue to threaten the success of the health care initiative. Tragically, women and children in many parts of the country continue to be denied or charged for health services and medicine. Corruption leads to medicine “leaking out” of the government clinics to be sold, and poor administration prevents drugs and equipment from going where they are needed.

The bottom line is that officials do not effectively oversee the program to ensure that it is operating properly.

A way to solve these problems would be for the government to build and strengthen systems of monitoring the free healthcare program.  Specifically, monitoring programs need to be developed to identify and stop corrupt practices, strengthen drug and equipment procurement systems, and focus on measures of real health care delivery.

The government of Sierra Leone should make these essential administrative improvements while empowering women and girls — make women and girls targets of public education campaigns and include them in designing and implementing monitoring reforms.

Only then will this program succeed and deliver the adequate health care that is a Sierra Leonean’s human rights.

Join us in taking action to ensure that the Free Health Policy is available to all women in Sierra Leone.