OPM project highlights key benefits of free health care scheme in Sierra Leone
An evaluation of the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) in Sierra Leone shows that the programme is having a positive impact on the lives of new and expectant mothers and their children.
In partnership with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Oxford Policy Management carried out an independent evaluation of the flagship health programme. Our findings indicate that the FHCI was a clear contributor to increased coverage and greater equity of health care provision for the groups targeted by the programme: pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five.
The FHCI was brought about due to these priority groups experiencing very high mortality and morbidity rates with prohibitive costs creating a barrier to access of basic health services. As well as abolishing user fees, the Government recognised the need to simultaneously address wider issues -including staffing levels and the availability of drugs - as part of the initiative.
Our team developed a theory of change to map out how the FHCI might produce impact, and gathered data over a two year period. We also produced a number of projections of need and resource based on different scenarios to help identify different funding options for maintaining and scaling-up the initiative in the future.
Nouria Brikci, senior consultant at OPM and project manager of the evaluation, said:
‘It’s great to see the FHCI has had a positive impact in Sierra Leone. Our evaluation shows that under-five mortality rates are down, and this can be attributed in part to the programme. We have also provided suggestions for improvements to the initiative, as well as highlighting some challenges that are still to be overcome. Projects like the FHCI provide vital, targeted support to groups who really need it. As the evaluation also shows, however, there is plenty of progress to be made after the Ebola outbreak eroded a lot of the good work done.’
Our recommendations, if implemented, should help improve the sustainability and efficacy of the FHCI. Ensuring the programme’s longevity and effectiveness will mean improved levels of access to crucial healthcare for mothers and children in Sierra Leone.