UN-backed maternal and child health drive kicks off in Sierra Leone

Seybatu Koroma rides a UNICEF-supported motorcycle ambulance to a hospital in Bonthe, Sierra Leone

27 April 2010 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Sierra Leonean Government have embarked today on a new initiative to provide free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five across the West African nation.

Sierra Leone, which ranked 180 out of 182 countries in the 2009 Human Development Index (HDI), has been facing serious challenges in the delivery of and access to health-care services, UNICEF’s Christiane Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva.

In 2008, the under-five mortality rate was 140 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality ratio was 857 per 100,000 live births.

The lifetime risk of a woman dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth was one in eight, Ms. Berthiaume added.

The Free Health Care Initiative seeks to redress this situation by boosting access to services and ensuring that mothers and young children receive the care they need.

In addition, the agency plans to reach 250,000 pregnant women and lactating mothers, as well as 1 million children under five, with essential medicines to enhance maternal and child health at all Government facilities, with the help of an $8.8 million contribution.

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