One picture is a waiting room on April 26th 2010 and the other is the same room on April 27th. That’s the day that the government of Sierra Leone made healthcare free for children under 5, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Do user fees prevent people in developing countries visiting health centres? Well, these results from 5 of Sierra Leone’s 13 districts show there was a 179% increase in children under 5 visiting health centre’s once user fees were dropped. I think the bar chart is really striking.
The image below shows people queuing waiting to see a doctor. Following this initial spike, numbers are expected to reduce down (so there won’t be massive queues like there are here). But it illustrates how many mothers don’t visit doctors, even if they think that they, or their child are sick. Looking at these figures, it’s clear that fees are a major barrier preventing poor people visiting health professionals.
Why did this happen?
Last year at the United Nations General Assembly the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced that the UK would support health services in a number of countries, including Sierra Leone. Thanks to that aid commitment the Sierra Leone government announced that they would make health care free for lactating mothers and children under 5. Development aid isn’t the answer to everything but in some cases it has a massive impact.
Next stop, free healthcare for all!
Find out more: When Oxfam went to Downing Street
Figures provided by 'Ministry of Health Statistics' Sierra Leone to Oxfam.