In 2000, Sierra Leone was last on the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index because of its poor health indicators. Child mortality rates were the highest globally, with 286 under-fives dying per 1,000 births.
In 2010, to target this problem, President Ernest Bai Koroma launched the Free Healthcare Initiative (FHI) for children under five and pregnant and lactating mothers. Although this implementation has resulted in a reduction of child mortality rates nationally, with 198 deaths per 1,000 births, the FHI has struggled with the instability of the Sierra Leonean economy.
At Magbenteh Community Hospital, we have a clinic providing free health care to children under the age of five; on average we treat 500 under-fives in this clinic per month. However, the reimbursement from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is only sometimes available and therefore paediatric cases need to be funded by donors.
During the last quarter of 2014, The Children’s Ward was temporarily closed and renovated to accommodate an Ebola Virus Disease Treatment Centre. Once disinfected, the facility was reopened in May 2015 to admit and treat children in need of medical services.
The Children’s Ward now has a capacity of 29 beds, examination rooms and inside toilets, typically treating 150 child in-patients per month with an average stay of 4 to 5 days. The most frequent cases persist as malaria, typhoid, malnutrition, pneumonia, measles and anaemia. It has been reported that 1 in every 5 households has no sanitation facility, with an estimated that 40% of infant deaths are secondary to sanitation and water borne diseases.