By Aaron Bundu Lahai
The Vice President of Sierra Leone Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh has described census as a development tool for the healthcare delivery system.
Vice President Jalloh explained that census is about the collection of data which contains information about people in a community, adding that without accurate data in a country, it will be difficult for government to undertake development.
He further stated that with an accurate data from census, it will be simple to determine the required healthcare facilities and personnel per community. Vice President Jalloh said that one of the major problems in the health sector before now was lack of data, therefore the conduct of the ongoing 2021 population census is relevant.
He appealed to Sierra Leoneans to present themselves for counting, and not allowed anyone to mislead them about the census, as the census is about development. The Honourable Vice President was speaking during the launching of six healthcare documents by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation at the forecourt of Miatta Conference Center in Freetown.
The six documents launched by the vice president include the National Health and Sanitation Policy, National Health Sector Strategic Plan, Health Financing Strategy, National Research for Health Policy, Health Information System Policy, Health Monitoring and Evaluation Strategic Plan.
Dr. Jalloh stated that the vital documents signaled a milestone in the health sector. He urged staff of the Health Ministry not to treat the policy documents like African Constitutions that are well written but neglected and often not implemented, noting that proper implementation of the documents will lead to positive dividends in the collective efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
He informed the audience about Government of Sierra Leone commitment to provide additional finance to the healthcare sector, and other complimenting sectors like water and energy.
The vice president noted that the theme for this year’s Universal Health Coverage Day Commemoration which states: Leave No One’s Behind, Invest in Health System for All, resonates with Government’s effort, investment, and commitment to healthcare sector geared towards leaving no one behind.
Narrating gains made in the health sector from 2018 to present, Vice President Jalloh mentioned about the progressive increase in the health sector budget allocation from 6-11.6% in 2021; recruitment of four thousand healthcare workers with additional one thousand to be recruited between now to next year; engagement of public private partnership in the management and commercialisation of drugs, citing the Connaught Hospital drug shop; and the provision of 4.4 billion leones as nutritional support for pregnant women, lactating mothers and under five children.
“Government is cognisance of the challenges in the healthcare system that continues to plague healthcare delivery in Sierra Leone despite the gains made” he maintained.
He informed of government initiating a functional review of the Health Ministry with the objective to identify key leadership and governance challenges as well as opportunities. He expressed hope that the review will established a solid health governance system.
Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation explained that Universal Health Coverage creates an opportunity to ensure affordable and accessible healthcare service delivery.
He informed about Government of Sierra Leone deliberate inclusion policy expansion in the Free Health Care package to include adolescents, the aged, Ebola survivors and the disabled.
The health minister explained about the revision of the National Health Strategy Plan with the aim of capturing Government of Sierra Leone aspiration towards achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030.
Among the eleven pillars in the 2021-2025 National Health Sector Strategic Plan highlighted by the Health Minister include health financing, leadership and governance, human resources for health, health infrastructure, community participation and ownership.
He informed about the development of Health Financing Strategy to ensure the pillars in the National Strategy are implemented.
The World Health Organisation Representative, Dr. Steve Shongwe noted that health systems that protect everyone is both a human right and a prerequisite to achieving sustainable socio-economic development.
He stressed on the need for renew and a stronger political will to place health equity high on the global agenda and achieve Universal Health Coverage.
“Universal Health Coverage Day is an opportunity to review progress and identify gaps in ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can access the health care they need, close to where they live and without falling into financial hardship.” Dr. Shongwe reiterated.
The programme was climaxed with the official launched of the six policy documents.