The government of Sierra Leone on Monday 15th August signed an accountability agreement with UNICEF and DFID to ensure successful distribution of Free Health Care drugs to all government hospitals and Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) in the country.
The signing ceremony which was held at the Central Medical Stores, New England, Freetown attracted senior government officials and officials from UNICEF and DFID. After signing, the officials also witnessed the pilot distribution of the Free Health Care drugs for all the six hospitals and 106 PHUs in the Western Area, Urban and Western Rural.
This agreement will help solve the problem of drugs linkages, and corruption in the distribution process of the drugs countrywide.
The Minister of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) Haja Hawa Zainab Bangura said that the drugs purchased by UNICEF cost $11million unlike the $ 7.7million drugs that was purchased last year.
She explained that the drugs were increased as a result of the increase in the number of pregnant women, lactating mothers and under fives from 800 per year before the free health care to over 9,000 in eight months after it was launched. This she said shows 60% drop of women and children who were dying.
The Health and Sanitation Minister further explained that the Drug Stores at Datsun garage in the East and the Central Medical Drugs Stores are all filled with drugs that will be distributed country wide starting from the Western Area, Rural and Urban, Port Loko and then other hospitals and PHUs in the country.
Madam Bangura averred that last year there were challenges like capacity of staff and weaknesses in the system that caused leakages.
She explained that they have put strategies in place that ensures no truck leaves the Central Medical Stores without a letter from the Local Unit Commander (LUC) in Freetown and in the provinces no truck leaves the hospitals without a letter from the LUC.
To ensure transparency in the health system, the Minister reiterated that the government would be printing receipts and prescriptions which will help to account for any drug that will be supplied.
The Minister concluded that her Ministry also has a channel system in her office that will monitor how the drugs are distributed. This she said is putting all systems in place to solve many of the challenges in the Free Health Care system.
DFID Acting Head, Dr Ann Freckleton said that this is one step on a long journey in terms of delivering the drugs. She explained that when President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma launched the initiative, DFID was strongly behind it. “We have seen 50% of women giving birth in hospitals”, she stated.
She revealed that the UK government has zero tolerance on fraud and corruption and as such “we are watching very closely how the initiative is going”.
UNICEF Country Representative Mahimbo Ndoe said that there have been quite a lot of successes in the free health care. “It has shown an impact on the mortality rate in Sierra Leone”.
He further stressed that UNICEF also has zero tolerance on corruption and wastage of drugs.
Health Alert National Coordinator Victor Lansana Koroma explained that his organisation will follow all the distribution process of the drugs until they reach their final destination.