Sierra Leone has launched a free healthcare plan for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children under five years old.
The country has some of the world’s highest maternal and child death rates.
Doctors blame this partly on health service fees and the cost of medication, and hope the healthcare plan will help save lives.
But there is concern that Sierra Leone lacks the resources and infrastructure to support the new programme.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries.
It emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002, but reconstruction is still proving to be a big struggle.
Ratiszai Ndlovo, Sierra Leone’s UN Population Fund representative, said although medical equipment had been ordered and some drugs distributed around the country, everything was still not in place for the launch of the healthcare plan.
“But I think we cannot start the programme with everything in a perfect condition.”
Free healthcare in Sierra Leone is expected to save the lives of more than one million mothers and children, at an initial cost of $19m.
Sierra Leone’s bad roads and the lack of ambulances means pregnant women in isolated parts of the country are often slow to receive attention.
Some question how the free healthcare will be paid for once the donor funds run out. (BBC)