The theft of 366 cartons of medical supplies from the country's port, meant for a free healthcare system for women and young children has been slammed by Sierra Leone's Vice President Sam Sumana.
The cartons, each containing around 750 smaller boxes, were stolen from two of 45 containers which have been held up at the port for months as an investigation is launched into drugs which have gone missing since last year.
Advertisement"I am terribly disappointed that people can behave in this way," Sumana told reporters.
"Those who committed the crime are saboteurs of President (Ernest) Koroma's vision to bring affordable health to all Sierra Leoneans," he said, calling for an urgent investigation into the matter.
Health ministry spokesman Abdoulaye Kamara told AFP that when the two containers were checked, 366 cartons were found to be missing and the shipment "did not tally with the manifest we received."
A police source said the missing cartons contained drugs, rehydrated salt, insecticide-treated bednets, condoms and hospital equipment imported from Denmark by the UN children's agency (UNICEF).
Security officials also reported a police and navy patrol unit had intercepted two boats heading to neighbouring Guinea loaded with a huge consignment of medicines.
"All of the consignment had the markings of the Sierra Leone government/ministry of health stamped on the boxes and we've arrested a number of people," local unit commander, Chief Superindent Bakarr Koroma, told journalists.
Sierra Leone's Anti-Corruption Commission has set up a special task force to probe complaints of "blatant and wilful misuse" of the free health care programme.
The 90 million dollar (67 million euro) free healthcare programme for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five years old was launched in April last year with donor aid from UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation and the UK Department for International Development.