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On Wednesday 21st February, 2018, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and it partners have commissioned over one hundred ambulances that would kick start the operations of the National Ambulance Service in the country. It’s important to note that this service is the first in the country and the fourth in the whole Africa ambulance service.

A State House release says 163 ambulances will kick it off, with 450 drivers and 600 paramedics having been trained for the service.

It can be recalled that in early 2009-2010, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation commissioned a study titled ' Barriers to Accessing Health'. The study investigated the specific reasons that were preventing people, particularly the most vulnerable in society women and children from accessing health care.

Two important factors were identified in that study as being the major stumbling blocks to people accessing health care, these were: cost of accessing health care and distance to the health facility/lack of transportation.

The report informed the government to officially launched the free health care in 2010. The Free Health Care provides free access to medical services for pregnant women, suckling mothers and Under Five Children.

During the official launch, the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah said access to the service is not by who you know but the ambulance service is for all Sierra Leonean.

"You no longer need to know HE the President, a minister, a paramount chief or some influential person in society to have access to an ambulance. You only need to be a Sierra Leonean, living in Sierra Leone and have access to a working phone' says the Minister.

Ambulance service is important to facilitate the referrals from the community to the healthcare units spread in the districts to the main hospitals. Its save costs for families who cannot afford transportation in times of emergency.

Sierra Leone tops the charts with the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy at birth; furthermore, the country’s faces geographical barriers that pose challenges in the accessibility and successful implementation of a transportation system, including ambulance service. Many roads are not asphalted moreover they are interrupted with rivers, dense forests and flooded with water during the rainy season.

The establishment of the National Ambulance Service came at the right time when women and children need the service most.

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By Sallieu Sesay