The Sustainable Development Goals in Sierra Leone
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Sierra Leone:
09 November 2021
UN Country Team pays solidarity visit to the Wellington fire disaster site.
Thirteen UN Heads of Agencies, Funds and Programmes operating in Sierra Leone led by WFP’s Country Representative and Resident Coordinator ai, Mr Steve Nsubuga, today visited the epicentre of last Friday’s fuel tanker disaster at Wellington, in the outskirts of Freetown. The collision of the fuel tanker, together with a truck carrying granite stones, has led to the loss of about 115 lives, with fears that the number may continue to rise. The team from FAO, IMF, IOM, UNDP, UNFPA, UNIDO, UNICEF, UNOPS, WFP, WHO, AfDB, UNFPA and the Resident Coordinator’s Office were received at the Incident Command Center by the Director of Response, National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Mr Sinneh Mansaray before they were taken on a conducted tour of the affected area. Deputy Director-General of the NDMA Mr John Rogers briefed the UN Country Team about what happened that fateful night and the efforts that are being made to bury the dead and treat the injured. He recognized the effort that UN agencies are making through NDMA to support the Government. The Mayor of the Freetown City Council Ms Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, who was joined by her Deputy Mr Osman Koroma, said it was good to see the UNCT show solidarity to the victims and survivors of the incident. On behalf of the UNCT, Mr Steve Nsubuga said it was quite unfortunate that many young people, particularly Okada riders were reportedly lost in this incident. “Perhaps through their association, the Okada Riders should be supported to become champions of road safety- instead of leaving this entirely to the police and other authorities. In this case and knowing the extreme danger, it is those that most commonly use the road that should have taken the initiative to establish perimeters around the scene,” he said. The RC a.i said the UN commiserate with the family, relatives, and friends of the dead. He wished those in hospitals a speedy recovery and assured all that the UNCT is already engaged with the various national agencies in providing the necessary support and coordination in the aftermath of the tragic incident.
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08 November 2021
UN Resident Coordinator engages the furthest behind in Makeni.
A cross-section of female sex workers and vulnerable young women in Makeni City, Bombali District met with the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) Mr Babatunde Ahonsi, UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Pa Lamin Beyia, IOM Officer-In-Charge Mr. James Bagonza, and UNIDO Country Representative Ms. Mariatu Swaray on Tuesday, 2 November 2021. This engagement was held at a drop-in centre of Rofutha Development Association (RODA), a local partner of UNAIDS. During the meeting, the vulnerable women expressed their hope to become self-reliant and abandon the sex trade if provided with alternative means of livelihoods Lady P, an advocate and organization lead of sex workers in northern Sierra Leone, expressed her gratitude to the UN delegation’s interest to meet and listen to sex workers, as her group is often excluded from such engagements. Lady P recounted that her group has been left out from the recent distribution of bed nets, have not been invited to social activities, and most times, subjected to paying extra for healthcare services – which she believes, would be otherwise free. She also informed the RC and UN team of incidents of assault her group has incurred from authorities, particularly when they are arrested for loitering. RODA has trained over 200 women and girls involved in the sex trade within Makeni township between 2018 and 2019 on entrepreneurship and financial management, HIV prevention and positive living, and STI management. Ms. Hawanatu Kalokoh, another sex worker, said that while they were beneficiaries of RODA's vocational training programmes and start-up kits, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of women and girls in the sex trade, including some that were already positive deviants before the pandemic. In view of this, it will be impactful if more beneficiaries can be identified and supported. To ensure that RODA’s interventions are successful, the female sex workers highlighted their support including working as peer educators to get other young women off the streets of Makeni town and its environs. RODA Programme Coordinator, Mr. Aruna Rashid Koroma expressed appreciation for the interaction with his beneficiaries whom he described as vulnerable youth on the sidelines of the National Youth Summit in Magburaka. He indicated that RODA is working with sex workers because they are considered a core group for the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). "They also faced HIV-related gender discrimination, harmful gender norms, restrictive legal environment, low access to public health services due to related stigma, and violence," he said. The RC said he hopes that the conversation and response to the issues of sex workers would continue. "Their biggest desire is for viable alternative livelihoods, and there is no question that this would address many of the other issues they are facing." Mr Ahonsi also highlighted UN support to the most vulnerable communities, underscoring Outcome 4 of the UN Sustainable Cooperation Framework on Protection and Empowerment of the Most Vulnerable. UNAIDS provides support to address inequality gaps within the national HIV and AIDS response include technical input in resource mobilization from Global Fund and other donors; accompaniment of PLHIV and Key Population (KP) led organizations for proposal development; capacity building; and evidence generation on human rights, and stigma and discrimination which support advocacy and planning. These contribute to the design and implementation of meaningful interventions, leveraging of capacity within the UN Joint Team to ensure the effectiveness of the national HIV & AIDS response, and position PLHIV and KP organizations to directly implement and advocate for vulnerable people including sex workers. With support from the Global Fund, RODA is implementing a comprehensive HIV/STI Programmes with Sex Workers and their clients in the North-East and Northwest of Sierra Leone. The project focuses on community empowerment; condom and lubricant programming; legal literacy ("Know Your Rights"); HIV and HIV related legal services; stigma and discrimination reduction, reducing gender-related discrimination and violence against women and girls in all their diversity; human rights and medical ethics for health care providers; sensitization of lawmakers and law-enforcement agents; and community mobilization and advocacy. UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Isaac Ahemesah said, “we have over 59 children living with the female sex workers in 2 brothels. Thirty percent of them are below 18 years and that SGBV and drug use is extremely high among them.” He also noted that HIV prevalence is 6.8 percent among the female sex workers compared to national average of 1.7 percent.
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05 November 2021
WFP supports 83 farmers to plant rice and vegetables at Mathonkara, Tonkolili District.
On Monday, 1 November 2021, United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr Bababtunde Ahonsi visited a ten-hectare plot of farmland at Mathonkara Village in Tonkolili District, during his three-day mission to Magburaka and Makeni. Accompanied by WFP’s Deputy Representative Ms Yvonne Forsen, the farmers reported that with the intervention of WFP and the Ministry of Agriculture, they now plant rice, legumes and vegetables all year long, instead of “illegal crops”. Fifty-four young men and twenty-nine women in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were trained in climate-adaptive agronomic practices. They were empowered to develop an abandoned inland valley swamp irrigation system, providing a sustainable food system for year-round food security. The Youth Contractor at the project site, 27-year-old Mariatu Conteh said the project had enabled them to organize people in Mathonkara community into groups, and they are supported with tools and seeds to become self-reliant. She is a beneficiary of training to lead agricultural transformation in the village. Pa Kapr Soya, the local village leader thanked the RC and his team for visiting. He commended WFP for their efforts in ensuring that the community attains food security. While they have enjoyed much support from the farming activity, the local leader requested help for a drying floor, a storage facility, and a rice mill. The RC said he was encouraged by the efforts of the farmers in ensuring that they plant and eat what they grow. He also commended the Government of Sierra Leone and WFP for continuing to invest in life-changing agricultural programmes such as in Mathonkara.
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05 November 2021
UN Resident Coordinator visits UNFPA-supported projects in Makeni.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr Babatunde Ahonsi, accompanied by UNFPA Officer-in-Charge Mr. Jocelyn Fenard visited UNFPA projects in Makeni on Wednesday, 3 November 2021. The UN delegation toured the Makeni Government Hospital and the School of Midwifery to witness first-hand UNFPA support to these two health institutions in Bombali District. UNFPA provides technical support to the Government of Sierra Leone in four areas, namely, integrated sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, and population data for development. At the Makeni Government Hospital, UNFPA supported the placement of experienced obstetricians and gynaecologists, and midwives to provide services at the Hospital on a full-time basis, including technical support, and capacity building for junior doctors and house officers, surgical assistants, midwives, and nurses. The agency also supported the construction of the maternity wing with funding from the UK Government. With assistance from the People’s Republic of China, UNFPA has supported the establishment of the Reproductive Health Centre at the Hospital to provide comprehensive reproductive health services such as cervical cancer screening and family planning services. UNFPA has also assisted the Hospital with High Dependency Units (HDUs) to ensure high quality of care for women with obstetric complications. The HDU is a specialized section of the maternity wing used to care for pregnant and postnatal women with life-threatening complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Makeni Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Mohamed G Sheku received the RC and his team. He expressed thanks to UNFPA for the support they have been receiving from the agency but cited challenges, including shrinking funding streams. Dr Sheku said that these, if not addressed, would hamper their efforts to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and teenage pregnancy. The Medical Superintendent disclosed that this year alone, the district has reported thirty-three maternal deaths and that while there is free healthcare for children under five, medical supplies for caring for pregnant women and lactating mothers are inadequate. The RC noted the issues raised by Dr Sheku, recognizing that some external support has contracted due to COVID-19. The RC expressed hope for the continued support of UNFPA and other partners in the country. At the School of Midwifery, Mr Ahonsi was met by Ms Francess Fornah, the Head of the School. She thanked the RC for the visit and UNFPA for their several interventions in support of the institution. UNFPA has been assisting the School of Midwifery in Makeni over the last ten years in collaboration with other development partners. This includes providing funds for uniforms, tuition fees, student stipends, books, ICT equipment, among others, all aimed at increasing the number of competent midwives in the country to address the gap in the midwifery workforce. UNFPA supports faculty members to attain higher education at bachelor’s degree and masters’ degree levels to improve the quality of teaching. In 2020, UNFPA supported five faculty members from the School of Midwifery in Makeni to attain such education, and they are still receiving this support.
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29 September 2021
UN Resident Coordinator calls for sustainable tourism as Sierra Leone builds back from COVID-19.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Mr Babatunde Ahonsi, in his keynote address to mark the World Tourism Day, acknowledged five priority areas identified in the UN Secretary-General's policy brief on COVID-19 and transforming tourism that may be adopted in the Sierra Leonean context to advance sustainable tourism in the short-to-medium term. Remarking at the World Tourism Day event organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs at Brookfields Hotel on Monday, 27 September, Mr Ahonsi mentioned protection of tourism-related livelihoods, including those of women and other vulnerable groups; boosting competitiveness and investments of the tourism sector; advancing innovation and digitalisation; fostering of inclusive green growth, and enhanced, targeted partnerships that foster knowledge exchange and cooperation as lessons the country's tourism sector could draw from. He said the gathering with the theme “Tourism & Inclusive Growth in Achieving the SDGs” could not have come at a better time. The tourism sector, according to the RC, has great potential in accelerating progress towards achieving SDGs. Mr Ahonsi recognised the value and potential of tourism to advance prosperity and drive inclusive, sustainable development, adding that the tourism sector cuts across almost every part of economies and societies. He also noted that UN Sierra Leone, through the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, aligned to the Medium-Term National Development Plan, 2019-2023 and anchored in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, has committed its support towards the acceleration of economic development for the benefit of all, including those in the tourism sector. Using UNDP as an example, the RC noted that over the years, support had been provided to youth groups through the National Tourist Board (NTB) to engage in beach cleaning, especially around Western Area. Recently, the Ministry of Tourism was also supported to build the capacity of 200 women living along the coastal areas in business management and start-up equipment to expand their businesses and improve their livelihoods. "As we reopen our doors to tourists, we have an opportunity to reshape tourism to be more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and accessible to all," the RC observed. He ended his address by calling on the Government, development partners and the private sector to collaborate to enhance sustainable tourism to boost the nation's economy. Speaking at the event, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Ms Memunatu Pratt said that tourism has proven to be a driver of economic growth for many developing as well as developed countries globally. "The sector is not just a leading source of employment particularly for women and youth; it also provides opportunities for peace, national cohesion and economic inclusion for the most vulnerable," she said. The Minister catalogued a long list of her Ministry's development strides, including reviewing and upgrading the Tourism Development Act 1990 into an integrated National Tourism and Cultural Act. "We must live up to our responsibility to ensure that we make collective contributions to promote the sector as well as share from the benefits tourism offers as a destination," the Minister noted. Other speakers at the event included the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, the Principal of Milton Margai University of Science and Technology, the deputy chairman, parliamentary oversight committee, and the Director of Tourism in the Ministry. Three panel discussions focusing on the SDGs were held in the afternoon session of the programme.
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