A newspaper in Sierra Leone has published an article written by a certain SLPP fanatic who said that the human-rights-abuser-turned-opposition-Presidential-candidate, Julius Maada Bio, has promised to extend the current free health care initiative by the sitting government, to all children under 18 in the country if he is elected president in the coming November elections. It is indeed very sad to see a ‘well educated man’ like Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, embarrassing those who toiled hard to pay his school fees by expressing such ignorance in a public domain. Keketoma Sandi in his quest to present his ‘mentor’ Julius Maada Bio as a statesman, compared him to Ghana’s Atta Mills. This is indeed laughable. What Keketoma did not outline in his piece was that the fake Brigadier is a mass murderer, unlike Atta-Mills who spent most of his years working hard and making a huge contribution to his country’s development, Julius Maada Bio was on a killing spree, unlawfully murdering innocent men and women in his own country and embezzling state funds with crooked intentions to improve his bank balance, by stealing what truly belong to the Sierra Leonean people.
If President Koroma’s APC government could provide free health care for pregnant and lactating women with children under-five, it is because the programme that constitutes the initiative could only make provision for such. I am sure if the Head of State had the option, every Sierra Leonean would benefit from such an amazing initiative. Keketoma claimed that Bio had already started discussing the options with development partner, DFID, and even referred to the thief as president-in-waiting, but Keketoma failed to explain why Bio was never granted audience with British government officials on his recent trip to London. The truth is, no one British official would want to be seen rubbing shoulders with a man who presided over despicable atrocities committed in brutal fashion during his tenure as Head of State. No matter how hard Keketoma and his comrades try to market Julius Maada Bio, the fully documented history of our country’s past paints a disturbing picture of what transpired during the period 1994 -1996 when blood was spilled in vain as some of our country’s illustrious sons and daughters were murdered in cold-blood under the orders of Julius Maada Bio. With this backdrop, Bio simply cannot be elected as the next president of Sierra Leone. Neither is he presidential material. Unless Keketoma is saying that the Sierra Leonean people are daft and would vote for a man whose record in power reveals a mafia type agenda that saw our passports being sold to corrupt Chinese businessmen, and state contracts being handed over to family members, as war was waged on the country’s finances.
Bio does not have the credentials to be President of Sierra Leone. This is simply fact. Julius Maada Bio belongs to the violent past of our country’s history. Sierra Leone no more provides a playing field for barracks boys to implement play-cook politics, and loot our state resources. Bio and his cohorts at the SLPP will never have the taste of power again and the opportunity to dismantle the progress taking place now that has discarded the dilapidated infrastructures left behind by a derelict government, and building a new nation with the welfare of the masses at the very center of policies.
It is interesting that Julius Maada Bio is picking on the successful initiatives of President Ernest Koroma’s government, and offering to improve on them. This exposes Bio’s acknowledgement that these policies are working and are changing the lives of people on the ground. Why then would he say he wants to do more? Why hasn’t Bio come up with new ideas? It is simply because at the heart of President Koroma’s new agenda, the future development strategy and plans for our country has already been outlined and slowly being implemented across the length and breadth of the country. And talking about a new direction? That is nothing new!! Sierra Leone has taken a new direction since Ernest Bai Koroma launched his Agenda for Change nearly five years ago. Bio must have got feedback from the people who have expressed what really matters to them – and all that points to what the current government is enabling. Bio does not have the example of leadership to present to the people of Sierra Leone. He did have the opportunity to govern, but he was busy stealing state resources instead of paying close attention to the poverty environment structure surrounding his people. Bio’s priority then were women, fast cars, and high-life. And the country has already paid the price for such recklessness. The people will surely not allow history to repeat itself!! Bio has devoid himself of the moral authority to govern – Bio is a wife beater – a domestic abuser!! The fact that when selecting a flag-bearer, the SLPP did not subject its candidates to serious criteria is in itself shocking. The fact that you can select a mass-murderer, human rights abuser and wife beater as flag-bearer, shows the vetting process had no substance – and you want the people to hand power over to you when you cannot even give them a honourable and outstanding citizen as candidate?
In his piece, Keketoma extracted excerpts from an article written by The Economist, quoting the reporter: “British doctors who worked in the country say the Sierra Leone Government lacks the wherewithal to organise something as complex as the provision of free health care”. The writer adds “Natasha Sauven, a paediatrician, described an official document outlining drug procurement as quite frankly fantasy”. But what Keketoma omitted was even more valuable insights from comments left by readers on the same article:
The Economist produces some of the most insightful journalism in the world. But its reporting on this article on free health care in Sierra Leone was far below its standards. It relied on being glib as opposed to substantive; it assumed things as opposed to reporting on them.
Rather than blasting the Sierra Leone government as inept, local ownership as a “fantasy”, and “old style aid” as the wave of the future, it should look again at how the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone is leading health reform and building sustainable health systems for the future.
Even an “old style” aid provider like Mercy Ships sees the value. From its own website, Mercy Ships says: “Plans have been established for how Mercy Ships will work alongside WHO, UNICEF and other NGOs, so that efforts are not duplicated and to take advantage of synergies. The work is aligned with strategic and tactical plans formulated by the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health and Sanitation. This is the first time Mercy Ships has signed a health compact with any government.”
Floating hospitals eventually sail away. Lasting and effective aid builds on the political will and dedication of country leaders. Sierra Leone is charting that course.
I can’t agree more with the first paragraph of Yates above. The the author would have done well to provide the cost of treating one cataract surgery onboard the ship and the cost Sierra Leon is spending per person served by its free maternal and child health program. Islands of Unsustainable charity on board the ship is a mockery to addressing health care needs of poor and rural sierra leonians. Tokenism should not be confused with effective aid.
The insinuation that African Governments are incapable of delivering health care for their populations, which can only be done by aid ships floating offshore, is absurd – bordering on racist.
Yes there have been problems meeting the huge surge in demand for free health care in Sierra Leone following the removal of fees for pregnant women and children. But this was to be expected and the Government has undertaken extensive measures to tackle these problems including arresting staff misappropriating drugs.
Burundi faced similar problems in 2006 when they too removed fees for pregnant women and children. But working with external partners the Government was able to increase public funding and improve management systems. Since then the number of babies born in health units has tripled and child mortality has fallen from 176 to 96 per 1000 births.
So rather than judge the Sierra Leone free health services initiative on tales from misinformed observers, let’s wait until 2015, when the statistics will show how many children’s lives have been saved by this massive increase in health care consumption
The positive mention of the work of Mercy Ships floating hospital in the context of the health care challenges in Sierra Leone was a gratefully received affirmation of the volunteers and staff from some forty nations that served in Freetown for ten months in 2011 (“Substitutes for traditional foreign aid are hard to find”, February 4th).
It should be noted that while Mercy Ships engages in what was described as “old-style aid” by providing free surgical and other interventions, it leverages such activities for regional health care capacity building, training surgeons, nurses, and technicians while effectuating improvement of health care delivery systems even after the ship departs.
It might also be noted that while you mention Mercy Ships as an “American charity”, despite a significant American constituency, it is very much an international charity, founded in Switzerland in 1978, with affiliates in sixteen nations.
Sierra Leone faces significant challenges and dysfunctions in its post-conflict recovery, but the quality of its leadership and commitment to improved health care access we observed this past year give hope for a brighter future.
Like the previous 3 commentators, I must confess that I am a little disappointed with the depth of analysis of this article.
The reasons why health care facilities and other ‘infrastructural’ development projects soon go to waste are myriad but one of the strongest reasons is that there is often not a well-defined market need for the product before they are developed. Usually the need is felt more by the donors than the recipients. Case in point, a floating hospital taking care of cataracts and cleft palates while the maternal mortality rate is sky high.
A cost-benefit analysis from the Sierra Leonean point of view will show which of these interventions will yield more health value to Sierra Leone in terms of life years.
As for the phenomenon of free health care, there is no free health care; someone is definitely paying for it! ‘Free health care’ as a health financing strategy without a strong tax based system and robust contributions that encompass risk sharing among the different groups in society in addition to a stream lined health resource distribution system for the health care system is always a big joke. It is not sustainable and often times combined with a centralised system often consumes more in administration than actual health provision!
Drugs going missing and patients paying for health care are just symptoms of a malfunctioning health distribution system. Command and control tactics will only work so far and if the underlying issues are not addressed more complications will follow.
I agree with Rob that the Burundian model along should be analysed on how to optimise distribution of health care resources in Sierra Leone instead of writing the entire system off as not being able to implement something as complex as free health care or looking for old style aid.
The comments above, one left by Don Stephens who happens to be the Founder of Mercy Ships, are a damning verdict on the SLPP’s failed attempts to diminish the outstanding leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government, and it goes even further, it demonstrates the crafty nature of the SLPP and some of their operatives who are hell bent on distorting the facts on the ground for political advantage. It also reveals the incompetence and ignorance of the Economist reporter who seem to have no clue as to what is really happening with the initiative, and who did not embark on getting all the facts by doing a thorough research and investigation by talking to all parties involved in the program.
Kektoma may have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more scandal-free attempt to fool the masses, This time he may have only succeeded in exposing the nasty campaign his party has embarked on to use every opportunity to damage the reputation of our country. Keketoma and the SLPP should have no illusions, the Sierra Leonean people have seen it all before and they have not forgotten, the SLPP has not shed the mistakes of the past. They are still the party they used to be over ten years ago! – Incompetent, unreliable and not to be trusted.
© 2012, Ahmed M Kamara. All rights reserved. Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.