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Powerful voices in Sierra Leone

Three days into my visit and we’re already campaigning.  On Friday we were surprised to see an announcement of plans to pursue a system of social health financing in Sierra Leone on AllAfrica.com

For many of the poorest communities we work with, even the basic payment for such a system might be impossible, so we strongly want to see a pro-poor system and to make a reality of the current Government policy of free healthcare for pregnant women and children under 5. Over the past few days we’ve also heard concerns that despite this very welcome policy, there are often problems of staff not being paid or medicines not getting through to communities. That afternoon we met with the First Lady of Sierra Leone to secure her support for our campaign and make representations about our concerns regarding social health insurance. Later at an EU reception Dieneke and I spoke to donors and others about the issues and how to find a way forward.

Saturday was a huge contrast to the high level officials of Friday. Saffa, who leads our Health Programme work in Freetown took us to the slums of Susan’s Bay and Kroo Bay.

In Susan’s Bay we were lucky enough to have the chance to meet with the local chiefs who told us about their concerns about access to healthcare and the need for a high level delegation to hold the government to account. We also met with a local health worker who told us about her experiences. We visited the clinic in Kroo Bay, where the local committee told us of their wish to have their voice heard and we discussed how we could build a strong campaign with them. We then met with a group of truly inspirational young people in the local school who spontaneously devised a play and acted out their experience of access to health care. In the midst of the poor conditions of the slums the strong voices for change we heard almost wrote the child survival campaign plan for us in Sierra Leone. The issues are clear, as are the actions that need to be taken. As they say in the local Krio language “Dis for Change”.

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