The endeavour to improve the wellbeing of women and children has been heightened with UK government’s pledge to provide Sierra Leoneans with one million bed nets. The West African state aims to offer every household in the country three long lasting insecticide treated bed nets by December 2010. Nearly three million nets are required to achieve the goal of universal coverage in the region and while pledges for two million have been previously made, progress has been accelerated by the UK’s assurance of a further million.
The new UK coalition government reaffirmed its dedication to the cause following a recent visit to Sierra Leone by the British International Development Minister, Stephen O’Brien. The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell praised the government’s goal saying, ‘British aid for malaria in Sierra Leone will help prevent 4,400 children’s deaths every year. This is what British aid is about – saving lives and delivering results.’
Concerns about suitable channels for distributing vital aid and resources in the region continue to be at the forefront of aid distribution debates. Some critics argue that observers are too easily distracted by how much aid is given to developing countries, while not enough consideration is given to where it ends up. Previous investigations like the BBC’s ‘Addicted to Aid’ have shown that some pharmacies in Sierra Leone exploit generous aid pledges by selling medicines and nets that should be free.
Malaria is responsible for a quarter of all deaths in the country and for nearly 40% of all hospital admissions. While support from aid donors through sustained commitments and comprehensive plans have the capacity to reduce diseases in countries like Sierra Leone, ensuring that channels of verification are in place so that aid is delivered to the people who need it most is just as imperative. The sustenance of the UK government’s pledge will therefore depend on effective mechanisms of accountability and methods for monitoring aid in Sierra Leone.