By Ayodele Lewis
Government initiatives to address the problem of infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone appear to have paid dividends in Kongbora Chiefdom, Moyamba District. (Photo: Ambulance used in Kongbora)
According to health workers in the chiefdom, the people are now able to access medication earlier and at a far lesser cost than it used to be in the past.They report that only six deaths have been recorded since the introduction of the free healthcare (FHC) initiative in the country, one infant and five pregnant women.
They say the deaths are a result of negligence on the part of the government or unpreparedness for the implications of the free healthcare initiative.
Health professionals and beneficiaries of the initiative interviewed say the problem of transportation in the chiefdom is a major cause of the deaths of pregnant mothers and or their infants.
AYV Magazine investigations further disclosed that there are five health centers in the chiefdom of about thirty-six villages with over two thousand people, according to Chief Daniel Harding, the head of the Moyamba Human Rights Committee.
Chief Harding said the hospital lacks the basic free healthcare drugs, and that even when the supply arrives, nurses walk miles on foot to the villages with the medicines on their heads.
“There is no transportation to take pregnant women to the main health centers,” he said, adding that even the chiefdom ambulance at Bauya is not suitable for use.
A community stakeholder, Henrys Lamin in Bauya said there are many problems affecting the women and children due to the lack of drugs in the chiefdom for months now.
He said that people go all the way to Moyamba town to get medicines when they are given the prescriptions.
“There is no accountability. Nowhere to complain; and everybody is just doing what they feel like. The women and children, who should be enjoying their rights to health, are still suffering,” he said.
The CHO for the chiefdom, Augustine Blango, who confirmed the six maternal deaths, said it was due to late referral and stubbornness.
He said there are five centers in the chiefdom, including Levuma Nyamah, Mabenka, Lawana, Taninahun and Bauya, the main town.
“The woman who died was only four miles from the health centers, but they waited until the situation got worse. Transportation is our greatest problem. Sometimes I pay transport with money from my own pocket to supervise the health center. We are also understaffed, there are only seven nurses working in the chiefdom. We are really in need of personnel. We used to receive free healthcare drugs every three months, but for the past four months we have not received supplies. When they come to the hospital, we give them prescriptions for them to buy the medicines for themselves. The ambulance we have is out of order; it’s not working,” Mr. Blango explained.