Patients and relatives waiting outside hospital. Freetown, Sierra Leone, 21 September 2009. © Amnesty International
Activists in Sierra Leone along with Amnesty International members worldwide have been campaigning on the access of women and girls to maternal health care in Sierra Leone since 2009.
In 2010 the government of Sierra Leone launched the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI), aimed at providing free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five. Despite some challenges, under the FHCI many women and girls living in poverty have been able to access vital care that they would not otherwise be able to afford, but all this could change when the next government takes office, as the initiative is not currently enforced by law.
The election is an opportunity to urge the next President to protect free heath care in Sierra Leone; and make the free health care initiative not only legally enforceable but; to create accountability mechanisms for its implementation; and to ensure remedies are provided for women and girls when their rights related to free health care are violated.
Let’s continue to stand together and call on the next President of Sierra Leone to ensure that the rights of women and girls in the country are respected and protected.
On the occasion of your election to the office of the President of Sierra Leone, we the undersigned would like to urge you to ensure that women and girls continue to enjoy the provision of free maternal health care.
The Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) has helped to address some of the financial barriers that pregnant women in Sierra Leone face in their access to maternal health services. However, significant challenges in the implementation of the FHCI remain; especially in terms of weakness in implementation of the initiative, a lack of properly-functioning accountability mechanisms and appropriate avenues for people denied free health care to raise their complaints and receive an effective remedy..
These challenges must be addressed by the government of Sierra Leone to ensure that women and children continue to have access to maternal health care.
In this regard we urge you to ensure that under your new government free maternal health care becomes legally enforceable; and that remedies are provided for women and girls when their rights related to free health care are violated.