President Dr Julius Maada Bio has on Monday 7 March 2022 launched the Health-On-Wheels Initiative, the first such effort by Sierra Leone at actualising its universal health coverage commitment with support from the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

“So, Sierra Leone’s commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage has been evident in our international commitments, our partnerships with various nations and multilateral institutions, and our efforts to restructure our national health sector.

“We are one of few countries in West Africa to invest over 12% of our budget into health care. My Government has allocated over 75 billion Leones to refurbishing, improving, or rebuilding healthcare infrastructure right across the country.

“For the first time in fifteen years, I repeat, for the first time in fifteen years, my Government has undertaken to rehabilitate Makeni Government Hospital, Magburaka Government Hospital, Port Loko Government Hospital, Kabala Government Hospital and other regional hospitals,” he said.

President Bio noted that the impacts of those investments were significant by any measure and were above politics, adding that since 2018 maternal mortality had been reduced from 1,165 to 720 per 100,000 people with far fewer mothers now dying in childbirth.

“Far fewer infants and children under five are dying. There has been a 100% increase in the number of people living with HIV receiving lifesaving treatment from just over 23,000 in 2017 to over 46,000. Malaria-related deaths have also been reduced by 47% – far fewer people are dying of malaria. Add these to our much-lauded fight against successive waves of COVID-19 and you will see that, in just 4 years, we have made great progress as a nation,” he concluded.

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, who doubled as chairman of the occasion, said the launch of the health initiative was a laudable venture that was geared toward bringing health care services to people in remote areas and poor communities. He added that it would also embrace and advance the quality of human capital development of the country.

“The government of Sierra Leone, through the dynamic leadership of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, will continue to strengthen the health care system of the country. More hospitals will be built and more refurbished throughout the country. This will be done to give access to health care services to all citizens, regardless of where you are,” he concluded.

Country Director of Health Development Partners, Isaac Ahemesah, congratulated the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on what he called a great initiative on health-on-wheels that was aimed at bringing health services to the doorsteps of people as fast as possible. He added that the occasion also marked a significant milestone in their collective drive toward achieving universal health coverage in Sierra Leone.

“The Health Development Partners recognise the efforts that the government and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation are making to establish the Sierra Leone Health Insurance Scheme, which when fully implemented will reduce financial barriers and enhance access to health service in the country,” he noted.

Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hu Zhangliang said he was honoured to be invited to make a statement at the occasion and congratulated the government for their notable achievement in social and economic development, particularly in the health sector. He admitted that facing severe challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic and complicated international and regional situations was tough but assured of the support of his country to Sierra Leone.

“China and Sierra Leone are reliable friends over the past 50 years since our two countries established diplomatic ties on the basis of a win-win result. China will continue to support Sierra Leone in its development trajectory. I sincerely wish the mobile health project will be a success,” he concluded.