AfDB Participates in Launch of District Health Services Project in Sierra Leone

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The Bank Group on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, in Freetown participated in the launch of the Strengthening District Health Services Project which aims at improving access to quality health care in five districts in the country, namely; Bonthe, Port Loko, Bo, Kenema and Tonkolili. The project will also enhance the institutional capacity of the country’s ministry of health and sanitation.

The project will cost UA 18.9 million, equivalent to 86.3 billion Leones. A UA 17 million ADF grant, equivalent to 77.6 billion Leones, will help finance the project. The country’s government will, for its part, provide UA 1.9 million, equivalent to 8.6 billion Leones, for the project. The project will be executed by the Ministry of Health with UNFPA’s support. It will be responsible for rehabilitation work, equipment, essential pharmaceuticals and related technical assistance to improve the quality of district maternity wards, and primary healthcare facilities in the five districts. The project will also enhance the capacity of health staff in key areas such as reproductive health, obstetric care and family planning.

The project is expected to improve district health systems and the quality of health care in the five districts, in particular, through better health facilities, increased availability of drugs and medical supplies, and better trained health staff. As a result, the use of health facilities in the concerned districts is expected to increase, more births should be attended by trained medical staff and maternal and child mortality rates are expected to drop.

Speaking with African Development Bank Group officials in Sierra Leone after the launch of the project, beneficiaries said they were hopeful about the project given the status of maternal health and rates of child mortality in the country in general and in the participating districts in particular. They were excited and optimistic about the goals and objectives of the project as it will improve access to quality health care for residents of the districts and, by extension, the health care status of the population.

Dr. Matt-Lebbi (Medical Officer), for his part, spoke about some of the problems facing the districts. He highlighted the lack of trained medical staff, especially doctors and midwives. He said that Port Lokko, one of the beneficiary districts, had only one trained midwife at the district hospital, a situation which is hurting residents of the district. He regretted the general lack of equipment in hospital wards, especially in the children’s ward, which is in general disrepair and lacks much-needed delivery beds, basic antiseptic facilities and disinfectants.  He further explained that Port Lokko had about one hundred maternity facilities, but the facilities were ordinary rooms housed in private homes where the quality of services could not be guaranteed.

The Bank Group has been helping Sierra Leone rebuild its health system. Years of civil war have taken their toll on the health sector. Much of the infrastructure has deteriorated and the country is in dire need of trained medical staff. About 75 percent of the country’s health care facilities or about 415 health care units, including 15 hospitals and 150 primary health care centers, were not functional at the end of the war, either because the buildings were destroyed; equipment and supplies vandalized or medical staff were simply unavailable. In many parts of the country, the provision of social services literally stopped, especially in rural areas, following the systematic and large-scale destruction of social infrastructure in the country.

To help rebuild the country’s health sector, the Bank Group has been involved in some major health projects that are making a difference in the country.  The Bank’s strategy is to assist in the systematic restoration of social services. This implies the restoration and strengthening of the health care delivery system through the rehabilitation of existing health facilities and improved health services management with a view to ensuring the delivery of quality health care to the majority of the people. This strategy is being informed by the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country. The Bank’s intervention is in line with its vision which takes into account the guidelines for Bank Group interventions in post-conflict countries and provides useful lessons in the implementation of Bank-financed projects in a post-conflict environment.

The rehabilitation of health facilities such as the Jenner Wright Health Center, Ross Road Health Center and the Kissy Health Center are testimonies of the Bank’s determination to help the country in its efforts to rebuild its health sector. The projects have been able to contribute to the sector’s goal of improving health standards in Sierra Leone in terms of quality and availability of health services. They have helped in strengthening the country’s health care delivery systems despite the enormous challenges of a deeply fractured economy and severely eroded social services. The projects have supported policies that are helping to consolidate peace and restore the provision of quality health services through the implementation of the government’s National Recovery Program.  They also have helped in reviving basic social services and restoring credibility to health sector performance by supporting mechanisms that ensure the delivery of quality health care and the expansion of access to these services in an equitable, transparent and an accountable manner.

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