In Sierra Leone, many mothers and babies continue to die from preventable causes. Fortunately, significant improvements to health services for mothers, babies and adolescents were made between 2012 and 2017 despite the recent Ebola outbreak. These achievements were made thanks to the Improving Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health (IRMNH) programme under the leaderships of the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) and with funding from UKAID.
To make sure that future initiatives to improve health services will build on the achievements by the project and will be informed by the programme’s lessons, a ‘lessons learned and dissemination’ meeting was held on Tuesday 23rd May at the Bintomani hotel in Freetown.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Santigie Sesay, Director of the Reproductive and Child Health Directorate in MoHS. Presentations were led by the IRMNH programme partners: Options, UNICEF, UNFPA, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone. These partners worked together to increase the use of quality family planning, and reproductive, maternal and newborn health services with a focus on reaching young people. Innovative approaches were used to increase awareness of the benefits of RMNH care, strengthen service delivery, and increase access to [free of charge] RMNH services provided by private, faith based and non-governmental organisations. In recognition of the complexity of the IRMNH programme, a partnership management, evaluation and learning (PMEL) unit was specifically designed.
The PMEL function is provided by Options Consultancy Services Ltd. As part of this role, Options facilitated effective information sharing and coordination across the implementing partners, and provided technical assistance to the MoHS to ensure strong stewardship to improving RMNH care interventions.
Key achievements by the project included:
MoHS has been able to provide stronger stewardship to health services in Sierra Leone.
Increased learning and a stronger evidence base for reproductive and child health informed government policies and plans.
The Health Management Information System provides better quality data.
The Community Health Worker policy and strategy were launched in February 2017.
Young people nationwide were informed about SHR and FP by peer educators.
Service providers were trained on long term family planning methods and provided these services to 1,250,885 women.
1,284,787 bed nets were provided to pregnant mothers and children.
22,695 women delivered their baby at a Healthy Baby Voucher Service Provider Facility.
111,958 postpartum women received a visit from a Community Health Worker within 48 hours of delivery at home.
During the meeting achievements were discussed together with lessons about ‘what works’ when it comes to improving the health of mothers, children and adolescents. Action points were agreed, which included (but were not limited to):
Continued training and supervision for quality health data.
Continued tracking of the ability of facilities to provide emergency obstetric care to inform health system improvements.
Replicate project successes in ensuring effective engagement of private health facilities.
Improve coordination in health supply system to ensure availability of essential commodities at facilities at all times.
Ensure new skills trained of health staff are utilised through effective distribution of workers and by providing an enabling environment.
Better coordination among partners is needed to reach young people and educate them about sexual and reproductive health services.
UKAID will continue to support Sierra Leone strengthen health services under the Saving Lives programme. We encourage our partners and stakeholders to build on our efforts and lessons learned to reduce the maternal and child mortality in Sierra Leone.
By Sallieu Sesay
Communications Specialist Evidence for Action (E4A)