Corruption Hampers Sierra Leone’s Free Healthcare Scheme

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The Sierra Leone Anti Corruption Commision has released a field visit report stating that extreme corrution and mismanagement derails the government’s free healthcare insurance scheme. The policy established in 2010 was intended to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. According to the United Nations, in 2010 Sierra Leone lost 1 child out of 4 due to child mortality. An outbreak of Cholera disease in Freetown has killed 66 people since January.

The country celebrated as its president, Ernest Koroma, in April 2010 announced, a Free Healthcare insurance for pregnant, breast-feeding women and children under five.

Following Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war that killed over 500,000 people. The medical and healthcare situation in the country was left in shambles. President Koroma initiated a free healthcare program to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate. Two years after the launching, the anti corruption body now reports that the free service initiative is at the brink of failure. The report released testimonies of many women saying they can no longer get medication and healthcare for free. They even have to buy drugs like Paracetamol and Amoxicillin from street peddlers, medicine which should be freely given by public hospitals. But how do these medicines end up on the street.

“When we went there, the beneficiaries complained that when they go the health units they are asked to pay for facilities that are supposed to be free,” said Mohamed Ali Kamara from Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission. “That is what they alleged but we have not yet conducted any investigations.”

The government agrees that there are malpractices among doctors and nurses but maintain the initiative has been very successful. Alim Sesay, Director of Communication at the Office of the President says even donor organizations can attest.

Alim Sesay, Director of Communication at the Office of the President said “The last surveys conducted by external agencies recorded that in fact the uptake (irrespective) of reports that there are deteriorating health standard in this country, but because of this free healthcare the number of people accessing government medical care has increased tremendously.”

Even though Alim Sesay says the number of child and maternal deaths have reduced in Sierra Leone, there are no specific reports from Sierra Leone to back the government’s claim. In contrast, a recent Cholera outbreak has claimed the lives of almost 70 people. Since the introduction of the free healthcare scheme in 2010, Salaries of Medical staff have remained the same, at about an average 100 dollars monthly, while the cost of living in the last two years has skyrocketed. No wonder drugs meant for the public are finding themselves in the streets as Mohamed Ali Kamara from the Anti-corruption found out.

“That is the problem, most of the areas we went to to sensitize people about the scheme and others issues of corruption that is the complain people are making that they are underpaid. They are not paid properly, so that is why some of them are involve in corruption practices.”

Although Sierra Leone has made much progress in the health sector since the war ended, corruption and mismanagement continue to pose much difficulties for this small West African nation. It currently ranks 180 out of 187 in the United Nation’s Human Development Index which measures poverty, literacy, education and life expectancy.


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