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Civil society calls on parties to prioritize health in coming elections

Health Alert-Sierra Leone, the Budget Advocacy Network, Save the Children, and World Vision have called on political parties to ensure they prioritize health in their manifestoes if they are elected during the November 17, 2012 elections.
Addressing a press conference yesterday at the conference hall of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Health Alert Director, Victor Koroma said since the introduction of the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) women and children are now accessing health centers in the country.
He added that though there are successes of the initiative, yet there are still challenges in its implementation.
Victor Koroma called on all registered political parties to make a public commitment that if elected to govern at either district or national level they will maintain the free health care initiative, specifically the provision of the Basic Package of essential services free of charge, for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children under five.
The Director called on all registered political parties to put forward a clear and tangible plan to show how they will achieve the Abuja Target of 15% allocation of the total government budget to health by 2015.
The government of Sierra Leone committed itself to the Abuja Target of 15% in 2001, but since then, eleven years on, government is yet to realize this target.
Koroma added that the cut in the health budget from 11% in 2011 to 7.4% in 2012 is a cause for concern as Sierra Leone is a signatory to the Abuja Target.
Save the Children Program Manager for Every One Campaign, Joanna Tom-Kargbo also called on all political parties to make “concrete commitments to support the Free Health Care Initiative”.
She explained that user fees paid by pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-five children was a barrier for these people not to access health centers , but with the Free Health Care the number of these vulnerable people has increased and death rates amongst them reduced.
Joanna Tom-Kargbo added that the Free Health Care is one of “the indicators if Sierra Leone is to achieve MDG four and five” .
Budget Advocacy Network Coordinator, Abubakarr Jalloh said “we as a network want to see a clear plan of how political parties will maintain the Free Health Care Initiative”.
The Network he disclosed, is also meeting with the leaders of the seven registered political parties to discuss their plans for health care if elected, and to put forward key recommendations.
By Abibatu Kamara

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