Health care for women improves in Sierra Leone

Children in Sierra Leone

Free health clinics are good news for these kids, who were hanging out in the market while their parents worked.

Sierra Leone, a country that is now very dear to me after my first visit last Nov, was once of the most unsafe countries for pregnant women. In 2009, it was estimated that 1 in 8 women died during pregnancy or childbirth – the story was even worse for the newborns.

But international donors have contributed to medical facilities, the government waives clinic fees for women and children, and the results are spectacular:

Since waiving the fees, Sierra Leone has seen a 214 percent increase in the number of children under 5 getting care at health facilities, a 61 percent decrease in mortality rates in difficult pregnancy cases at health clinics, and an 85 percent drop in the malaria fatality rate for children treated in hospitals, according to figures Mr. Yates supplied.

However, not all Sierra Leone women are cared for:

Here in Sierra Leone, the health minister, Zainab Bangura, says her country needs 54 gynecologists but has only 4. Likewise, she says, there are only two pediatricians in a nation of over five million people. “We lost 10 years” to civil war, Ms. Bangura said of the impetus behind increasing access to health care. “We needed to embark on a drastic measure.”

Read the full story here and follow this link for a slideshow, both from NPR. Many thanks to all those that donate aid to make healthcare available to women, worldwide.

If you want to share the right to basic healthcare a quick search found the following organizations work in Sierra Leone on women’s issues: Amnesty International, Mercy Ships, Women for Women of Sierra Leone, Doctors without Borders, and UNICEF.

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