Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 December 2021:
The World Bank on Thursday approved $60 million grant financing to support maternal and child health services that will benefit two million people in Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Leone Quality Essential Health Services and Systems Support Project, funded by a $40 million International Development Association (IDA) grant and $20 million grant from the Global Financing Facility (GFF), will help the government of Sierra Leone build resilient, efficient, and equitable health systems for expanding coverage and utilization of essential health services and to reduce diseases and mortality of Serra Leoneans.
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars made available to support the development of the country’s healthcare system over the last decade, successive governments have either failed to make the necessary spending or misappropriated the funds.
Writing in a statement issued about this new funding, the World Bank said that although life expectancy at birth in Sierra Leone increased from 39 years to 54 years between 1990 and 2017, it remains the fourth lowest globally.
It also says that while Sierra Leone’s level of public health expenditures is about the same as that of comparator countries, it has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, at 717 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
These challenges the World Bank says are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which has slowed economic growth, resulting in increasing debt and falling public revenues.
The pandemic has also disrupted essential health services such as institutional deliveries, outpatient consultations and child vaccinations.
Speaking about the funding, Abdu Muwonge – World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone said: “The World Bank is happy to support this operation through additional financing to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation as it continues to improve health services delivery in Sierra Leone by building on past projects to strengthen disease prevention, pandemic preparedness and response through an integrated approach at the district level.
“It will help improve quality Essential Health Services (EHS) and increase utilization of health services and improve the health status of the population.”
As part of the new financing, $10 million through the GFF is specifically earmarked to address the urgent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and will help integrate Sierra Leone’s public health emergency response and rollout of COVID-19 tools with the delivery of quality essential health services for women, children and adolescents in the most vulnerable districts.
Monique Vledder, Head of Secretariat of GFF said: “The partnership between the Global Financing Facility and the Government of Sierra Leone focuses on ensuring that the most vulnerable women and children can access the services they need amid the COVID-19 crisis, including rollout of COVID-19 tools and enabling surge capacity for the health workforce.
“The government’s commitment to restoring and accelerating progress on the health of women, children and adolescents is crucial to an equitable and resilient COVID-19 recovery.”
The Quality Essential Health Services and Systems Support project will support the implementation of an innovative approach to deliver health services at the district level, particularly for women and children Implemented through a Public Private Partnership. This approach arranges service delivery assets into a network consisting of an anchor health facility (hub), which offers a range of services, complemented by lower-level facilities (spokes) that offer limited services and refer patients who require more intensive services to the hub for treatment.
The project will also invest in holistic primary health care systems focusing on equity, including upgrading infrastructure, equipment and supply of essential drugs and commodities, and improving health facility management to support among other outcomes, safe deliveries among pregnant women.
Kofi Amponsah, World Bank Senior Health Economist and Task Team Leader said: “The project is aligned with the GoSL’s National Development Plan 2019–2023, whose main objective is to accelerate human capital and transform the health sector into a well-resourced and functioning national health care delivery system that is affordable and accessible to all.
“The project will collaborate with sectors beyond health which have impact on health and nutrition outcomes, such as in water, agriculture, education, and energy for greater cross‐sectoral links and synergies”.
The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa.
Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.6 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $21 billion over the last three years, with about 61 percent going to Africa.
The Global Financing Facility (GFF) is a multi-stakeholder partnership of the World Bank that supports country-led efforts to improve the health of women, children and adolescents.