News24

S Leone healthcare draws neighbours

2010-06-02 22:12

Freetown - Scores of pregnant women and young mothers have flooded into Sierra Leone from neighbouring Guinea and Liberia since it began offering free health care services, health officials said on Wednesday.

"They are crossing the over 50 illegal border points in batches of 10 to 20 into Kailahun District unchecked and queuing up at hospitals and clinics," senior district medical officer David Quee told AFP by telephone.

"We have admitted some of them as they needed close medical attention but they have added pressure to the free health care service by depleting available drugs," he said.

"We've almost ran out of essential supplies and are awaiting replenishment but the strain is being felt because of the entry of these foreigners who were not budgeted for."

A community health officer in diamond-rich neighbouring district Koindu, James Lahai said: "We cannot just refuse them service as many of them looked frail and anaemic."

"They have come, they said, because good health care service is unavailable in the rural areas of their various states and besides the service in Sierra Leone is free. They sometimes shed tears as they pleaded."

Sierra Leone launched its $90m free healthcare programme on April 27 for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five years old.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sierra Leone has the world's highest death rate among pregnant women and children.

The west African country is one of the world's poorest nations and still emerging from a brutal decade-long civil war that was officially declared ended in February 2002 and left much of the infrastructure in ruins.