Minister of Health Urges Immediate Action for Child Survival in Sierra Leone

By Foday Moriba Conteh

In a Press Briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Conference Room in Freetown, Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health, emphasized the urgent need for concerted efforts to improve child health in Sierra Leone under the theme: “A Call to Action for Child Health.”

Dr. Demby underscored the significance of the gathering, stating it marked a pivotal moment for Sierra Leone to address the health of its children. He stressed the rejection of complacency and renewed commitment to safeguarding children’s lives through evidence-based interventions.

Acknowledging Sierra Leone’s historical challenges and progress in reducing child mortality rates, Dr. Demby highlighted the persisting disparities and the country’s high ranking in child mortality globally. He emphasized the need for urgent action to align with the Sustainable Development Goal target for child mortality reduction.

Aligned with President Julius Maada Bio’s vision for human capital development, Dr. Demby announced the Ministry of Health’s commitment to accelerating actions to improve child health. He highlighted initiatives such as the national Child Survival Action Plan and the establishment of the Child Health Programme to prioritize child health at all governance levels.

Dr. Demby outlined specific action points aimed at reducing under-five mortality rates, including ensuring vaccine access, improving healthcare infrastructure, promoting community engagement, and enhancing healthcare professional training and retention.

He concluded with a call to action, urging collective efforts to address priority areas and safeguard the future of Sierra Leone’s children. The Minister expressed gratitude for support and urged swift and decisive action to protect the nation’s children.

On his part, UNICEF Representative, Rudolf Schwenk, emphasized the urgent need for collective action to improve child health in Sierra Leone under the theme “A Call to Action for Child Health.”

Despite significant progress in reducing mortality rates for mothers and children under the age of five, Sierra Leone, classified as one of the 40 low-income countries globally, continues to face challenges in child survival. While policies granting free access to primary healthcare and increased health financing have contributed to a notable reduction in under-five and neonatal mortality rates, there remains a pressing need for comprehensive and bold approaches.

The National Child Survival Action Plan, spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and developed through extensive consultations with support from UNICEF and partners, serves as a roadmap to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal target of 25 or fewer deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births by 2030.

To address existing disparities, Rudolf Schwenk underscored the importance of building a robust primary healthcare system that reaches all communities, particularly those most in need. Overcoming systemic bottlenecks requires sustainable financing, data and accountability mechanisms, access to quality care, essential supplies, technology, infrastructure, and community engagement. However, with strong leadership, accountability, and partnership among key stakeholders, these challenges can be surmounted.

He highlighted UNICEF’s instrumental support over the past three decades in strengthening Sierra Leone’s health system, including improvements in immunization coverage, response to the COVID-19 pandemic, expansion of Special Baby Care Units, procurement of a new malaria vaccine, and strengthening of community health teams.

Acknowledging the cooperation of the Ministry of Health and support from donors such as the Global Fund, GAVI, and the Islamic Development Bank, Schwenk emphasized the need for focused efforts and investments to achieve ambitious child survival targets. UNICEF calls for a renewed commitment to child survival and stronger operationalization of the Sierra Leone Action Plan to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.

Rudolf Schwenk urged collective action to improve the health system and build a healthier and more resilient Sierra Leone, ensuring every child has the opportunity to survive and thrive.


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