Sierra Leone's Commitment to Abuja Target
We live in a country where five of our mothers die every day and 11,000 of our newborns die every year. We are losing too many of our people due to lack of access to basic health care services.
This month African Heads of State will gather in Abuja to discuss and review the commitments they made 12 years ago.
In 2001, African Heads of State promised to spend 15% of their total annual budget on health by 2015. Yet, in the last three years Sierra Leonean government commitment to the Abuja Declaration has fluctuated.
In 2011 the government of Sierra Leone committed 11% to health, in 2012 that percentage decreased to 7.4%. Last year however, the Government of Sierra Leone committed to 10.5% of its total budget to health for 2013.
The government has made efforts to increase health expenditure. Yet we know that allocated funds are not getting to where they are most needed on time.
Six months into 2013, less than 2% of the 10.5% that has been promised has actually been disbursed.
During the recent supplementary budget reading to parliament by the Minister of Finance Dr. Kaifala Marah, commitments made to sending peace keeping forces to Mali and compensation to the 2007 Togo team plane crash victims were addressed.
Health was not mentioned despite the upcoming Abuja declaration conference. Although the Abuja Declaration Conference will focus on three main areas which are HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, it is important that Maternal and newborn health also be a priority area of discussion.
For Sierra Leone we must ask our leaders what they plan on re-committing to at this conference and we must then ask and call for more consistent and timely disbursement of funds in our health care system.
Speaking on behalf of Health Alert, Victor Koroma said:“This Africa Union Special Summit provides a window of opportunity for the leaders of Sierra Leone to keep their promises for health. Furthermore, they must remember that we are watching, and are asking them to ensure that the survival of our mothers and babies is kept amongst the highest priorities.
As the Heads of State meet in Abuja on the 15th of July, we call on the Government of Sierra Leone to not only demonstrate solid commitment towards meeting the 15% target, but to also ensure adequate increases in the per capita spending on health.
Government spending on health is $10 per person (LE 43,000), which is not even sufficient to feed a household of two or to treat complicated malaria and typhoid.
Investing in mothers and babies is not only a goal in itself – it also helps achieve other Abuja targets such as those on HIV, TB, and Malaria. And more than that, investing in the health of our mothers and their children will improve our economy in the future.
We must urge our government to invest in the health of its people. After all, as the fastest growing economy in the world, Sierra Leoneans need to be healthy in order to be an effective and efficient work force as we move towards ensuring that our agenda for prosperity is achieved.