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:
04 January 2022
2022 – A Year to Put Sierra Leone First.
As challenging as last year was in further knocking developing countries like Sierra Leone off the sustainable development track, due largely to the devastating economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2022 promises to be no better. Among a complex of issues that portend a landscape fraught with major challenges in the year ahead, three issues should be of particular concern to leaders and key stakeholders in Sierra Leone. First, we are witnessing a strong resurgence in Covid-19 transmission around the world (Sierra Leone included). For low-income countries, there is now a high probability of prolonged economic adversities associated with the huge uncertainty around how soon the pandemic will be brought under control. With the majority of Sierra Leoneans yet to be fully vaccinated and an increasing number of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated and previously infected, the national Covid-19 response needs to be significantly re-engineered around a sustained ‘Do-It-All’ strategy. This must seek to deliver by year-end full vaccination for at least 70 percent of the population and foster broad adherence to Covid-19 prevention protocols around handwashing, face mask-wearing, and safe physical spacing. These are not unrealistic targets given, for example, the availability of significant supplies of vaccines to Sierra Leone. But they can only be achieved through strong, sustained leadership by the government as well as unity of purpose and well-coordinated action among all key stakeholders. We may all be tired of Covid-19 and its impact. But this coronavirus is not yet tired of us. For now, therefore, rather than talk about post-Covid recovery, the focus should be on containing Covid-19 transmission and sustaining inclusive and nature-positive economic growth in the course of doing so. The revamped Covid-19 response should be leveraged to strengthen the health system and the overall health emergency preparedness of the country. In addition, dealing with impact of Covid-19 offers a resetting opportunity for real transformation in economic policy responses towards protecting and improving livelihoods for the teeming population of young people and women in the informal sector, and investing in education, skills development, and infrastructure as the foundation for sustained economic growth and social progress in the years to come. Second, the long-standing weaknesses in the fundamentals of the national economy are likely to be exacerbated in 2022. The less-than-ideal trends in per capita income, consumer price inflation, foreign direct investment, current account deficit and the debt-to-GDP ratio could potentially worsen. The full impact of persisting Covid-related disruptions to key global supply chains, rising interest rates and liquidity crisis in major economies across the world would most likely be felt in Sierra Leone in terms of a huge fiscal squeeze, and high levels of food insecurity, youth unemployment and multidimensional poverty. Revenue and economic growth forecasts in the 2022 budget and expectations of a more positive macroeconomic outlook in the medium term would probably now have to be adjusted downwards. In this scenario, the government may have no choice but to institute severe austerity measures and to do a lot more to eliminate inefficiencies and gaps in the allocation and management of public finances. Within these economic management efforts, however, all hands must be on deck to ensure the ring-fencing of funding for key priorities around education, livelihoods protection, and health which are key to ensuring social stability and speedy return to the path of economic recovery. Third, the way politics is played in 2022 really matters. What Sierra Leone’s key political actors do this year will determine whether the country successfully holds elections in 2023 in a manner that helps to advance the process of democratic consolidation in the ensuing years. The signals from 2021 were not too encouraging as we saw more evidence of tit-for-tat than give-and-take politics across the landscape to the detriment of accelerated pursuit of the nation’s development priorities. We saw an unmistakable rise in political tensions in the land and louder expressions of anxieties about the democratic health of the country. These tendencies would need to be reversed in 2022 to lay the foundation for an enabling environment for peaceful and credible elections in 2023. Protagonists across political divides and political leaders of all shades at the national, regional, district, and community levels must always remember that two wrongs do not make a right and an eye for an eye leaves both parties blind. They must be ever conscious of the fact that conflict prevention is always far better than peacebuilding. Therefore, a recommitment to genuine dialogue between the leaders of the ruling party and the main opposition parties to address unresolved political grievances in a mutually satisfactory way before the end of 2022 is an absolute necessity. The country needs more than ever before to return to the path of inclusive politics that builds bridges across ethnic, regional, gender, generational, and disability status divides. In a country like Sierra Leone, political parties cannot continue to merely function as vehicles for winning elections. They must also serve as major contributors to the shaping of socioeconomic policies and governance processes so as to deliver enhanced life chances to all citizens as dividends of democracy. Continued failure to do so will only serve to weaken public trust in democracy and state institutions. The three challenges highlighted above are clearly interconnected vis-à-vis the social contract between citizens and their leaders. They require that leaders across all spectrums of Sierra Leonean society begin to demonstrate a commitment to putting Sierra Leone first that matches the urgency of the threats that they pose to the country’s sustainable peace and development. On our part, the UN country team will continue to work with other development partners to support the efforts of government, civil society organizations, the private sector, and other stakeholders in mitigating the socio-economic impact of Covid-19, advancing sustainable food and nutrition security, and expanding access to basic services for vulnerable populations. We will ensure that all our development efforts put the furthest behind first especially disadvantaged women, young people, and persons living with disabilities. The UN will also work with key stakeholders to directly support efforts to foster peaceful, credible, and inclusive elections in 2023. In all of this, we hope the leaders and citizens of Sierra Leone will find inspiration in the following extracts from the 2022 New Year Message of UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres: Moments of great difficulty are also moments of great opportunity. To come together in solidarity. To unite behind solutions that can benefit all people. And to move forward — together — with hope in what our human family can accomplish. On this hopeful note, may I on behalf of the UN country team, wish all Sierra Leoneans a 2022 that is better than 2021. In doing so, and with words from the National Pledge, it is my fervent hope that all Sierra Leoneans will work for the country’s unity, peace, freedom, and prosperity, and put her interest above all else throughout 2022.
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03 December 2021
At IVD celebrations: UN Resident Coordinator pays tribute to volunteers & emergency health workers.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Babatunde Ahonsi today paid glowing tribute in recognition of the laudable efforts of all volunteers in Sierra Leone, including current and former UN Volunteers (UNV) and volunteer first responders and frontline health workers. Delivering the keynote address at an event marking International Volunteers Day at the Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko in Freetown on Friday, Mr Ahonsi also recognised volunteers and other emergency workers who responded to the devastating Wellington fire disaster in November this year. He said volunteering was about giving, sharing, standing by others, supporting causes they care about and creating a better future for everyone. Volunteers are helping us to build back forward from the COVID-19 pandemic. The RC emphasised that when people are encouraged to get involved in solving problems, the solutions are more likely to be feasible and lasting. “Volunteers engage communities and build a people-centric movement to help build a better and safer future for us all,” he said. Representing the Director-General of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) at the programme was Mr Ronald Turay, a senior officer in the directorate of response and relief. He said volunteers at NDMA do so willingly with enthusiasm asking for nothing. Ms Liv Elin Indreiten, who now works as Deputy Representative with UNICEF, shared her experience working as a UNV in Guatemala between 1996 to 2000. Also, Mr Stevens Nabieu, a current UNV with NDMA, said volunteerism made it possible for him to visit the State House and sit in a room of 15 persons, including with the President of Sierra Leone. He said his role as a volunteer data analyst at the NDMA was critical to the organisation’s handling of the fire disaster at Susan’s Bay in March this year and the recent fuel tanker fire disaster at Wellington. The event was climaxed by current and former volunteers participating and winning prizes in the SDGs spin-the-wheel contest.
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02 December 2021
At 2021 World AIDS Day: UN Resident Coordinator calls for unity against inequalities and public health threats caused by pandemics.
On 1 December 2021 during the commemoration of World AIDS Day in Freetown, Sierra Leone, UN Resident Coordinator Babatunde Ahonsi called on Sierra Leoneans, particularly people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), key populations, and other vulnerable groups, to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. He said that the threat of a more virulent, infectious, and deadly COVID-19 variant should be a matter of grave concern. According to the RC, the world is witnessing the fourth wave of COVID-19 in many countries, and in Sierra Leone, “it is sad to note that despite Government and Development Partners’ efforts to bring close to one million vaccines into the country, less than 10% of the population is fully vaccinated”. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics, drawing attention to the underlying inequalities that fuels the scope, scale and impact of HIV, COVID-19, and other colliding pandemics. Mr Ahonsi said people should be committed to working together to create an equal and just society in which all Sierra Leoneans can live in an environment free from stigma, discrimination, and violence. “This is an important prerequisite for achieving the Human Capital Development agenda of the government”. He adds that it is also a precondition for all citizens to realise their full potential as envisioned in the National Medium Term Development Plan and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. “Together, we can end all forms of inequalities, end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and end today’s and tomorrow’s pandemics. The time to act is now,” the RC underlined. He also recognised the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the National AIDS Secretariat’s efforts in embarking on a cervical cancer campaign targeting 10,000 women living with HIV, female sex workers and other vulnerable population groups. “Like HIV, cervical cancer is a disease of gender and other inequalities. These two interconnected diseases starkly expose the links between inequity, social and health injustice. Ninety per cent of 311 000 cervical cancer annual deaths globally occur in low- and middle-income countries. Globally, 6% of all cases of cervical cancer are in women with HIV. Yet, evidence from Southern Africa has shown that 63% of all women diagnosed with cervical cancer were HIV positive,” the RC informed his audience. He adds that although the rates may be lower in other regions of the world and there is no reliable data on the situation in Sierra Leone, cervical cancer remains a matter of public health concern. In her keynote address, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam Fatima Bio, called for the barriers of inequality to be broken. “The biggest pandemic we have in the world today is inequality,” she said, underscoring that women and girls do not need validation from men but their cooperation. She informed the gathering that she would now be turning her attention to efforts around cervical cancer. A representative from People Living with HIV said that the commemoration is a moment for reflection and a moment to make new commitments on the fight against HIV/AIDS. She said that to end HIV/AIDS by the 2030 target, “we need to end inequality in all its forms. In his remarks, Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr Austin Demby said that the landscape has changed for those living with HIV/AIDS. “If you take the medication in good time and over a sustained period, you will live a normal life, and it is free,” he said.
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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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