Sierra Leone: Government launches free maternal healthcare

Amnesty International and other organisations welcomed the launch of Sierra Leone’s policy to implement free healthcare for pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, new mothers, and for Children's rights under the age of five.  
 
They also urged the government to ensure that this new policy becomes a reality.
 
This historic decision marks an important step in removing one of the main barriers Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights face in accessing quality health care.
 
In Sierra Leone one in eight Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights risks dying during pregnancy or childbirth. This is one of the highest maternal death rates in the world.
 
Regularly Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls are unable to access lifesaving treatment because the fees are so high. With approximately 70 per cent of Sierra Leone’s 6.4 million people living on less than a dollar a day, paying for basic health care can present an insurmountable challenge.
 
Amnesty International’s UK Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock said:
 
“Free healthcare for pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, new mothers and young Children's rights in Sierra Leone is an extremely important step in combating the number of deaths in this issue.
 
“However, on its own, this is not enough. Insufficient funds, inadequate anti-corruption measures, acute staff shortages, and other failures will, if not addressed, prevent the progress of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights in Sierra Leone attaining the highest standard of health.
 
“We’re urging the government to invest in more and better-paid health workers, essential medicines and rigorous accountability. That way they can not only access health care, but also ensure that they receive good quality health care.”

 
The Sierra Leonean government estimates that US $90 million will be needed to implement free care in 2010, and that it has a funding shortfall of US $20 million, for which it has requested international support.
 
The measure announced by the government of Sierra Leone is a crucial step in the progressive realisation of its people’s right to health as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
 
International support to Sierra Leone’s health sector will need to be complemented by efforts by the government of Sierra Leone to ensure the proper management of its health care system, to combat gender-based discrimination, and to provide family planning services.
 
More than 15 states, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have adopted free care in the last five years. Recently, in the West Africa region, Burkina Faso was said to be favourable to the lifting of all financial obstacles to the provision of emergency obstetric care.
 
International cooperation and assistance will be important in enabling countries like Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and others to meet their obligations for the poorest and most vulnerable.
 
Background
 
Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, ratified by Sierra Leone in 1996, the government has an obligation to realise the right to health, including the right to maternal, child and reproductive health. The government is also under a duty to prioritise the most vulnerable and marginalised groups when allocating resources, and to address discrimination in health services and information. The realisation of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s right to health requires the removal of all barriers interfering with access to health services, education and information, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health.
 
The organisations involved include Oxfam, Amnesty international, Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World) and Avocats pour la santé dans le monde (Global Health Advocates).

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