Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 July 2015
More than 200 Sierra Leoneans met on June 28, 2015 at the Cocody City Hall in Abidjan for an open and constructive dialogue on Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola recovery efforts and the way forward.
The event was jointly organized by the Sierra Leonean Community in Côte d’Ivoire and members of the Sierra Leonean Association at the African Development Bank, with the highly distinguished Dr. Kandeh Yumkella as the keynote speaker.
Dr. Yumkella was in Ivory Coast as an official guest of the Ivorian Government, where he was invited to launch the West African Energy Leaders Group under the auspices of His Excellency Alassane Ouattara.
Speaking at the town hall meeting, Kandeh delivered a spontaneous speech, mainly in Krio, so that all Sierra Leoneans present at the meeting could clearly understand and appreciate his message.
Yumkella started by describing the Ebola outbreak as one of the most catastrophic events that has devastated the country, just like the rebel war. He said that it is the biggest and longest outbreak of Ebola.
Previous out breaks in Gabon, Uganda, and Zaire occurred intermittently and claimed, at worst, only a few hundreds of victims and lasting for a few weeks. But this outbreak in the three Mano River Union countries has infected more than 23,000 individuals, leaving over 10,000 of the victims dead.
Dr. Yumkella noted that in Sierra Leone, 11 medical doctors and 37 nurses were among the dead. The outbreak that reportedly began in Guinea in December 2013, spread to Liberia and then Sierra Leone and has continued up to the present.
The outbreak he said, has kept more than one million children out of school in Sierra Leone, and because of the fear of going to hospitals, care for other diseases have been neglected. The gains made in healthcare delivery were reversed with respect to these other diseases. Infant mortality rate increased as a result of the outbreak.
He revealed that even in the face of such devastation, he was in Sierra Leone, with his people. He was in Sierra Leone in October 2014 during the peak of the outbreak, and again in March and April this year.
Following the town hall event and the launch of the West African Energy Leaders Group in Abidjan, Kandeh left Ivory Coast for Sierra Leone, where he today – 2nd July, delivered a keynote speech at the ‘Private Sector Post-Ebola Recovery’ conference organised by the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, at the Radisson Blu Hotel (Photo) in Freetown.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sustainable Energy for All opined that it is welcome news to hear that the current Ebola outbreak is rapidly on the wane. He suggested that there are three major lessons to be drawn from this catastrophe that has befallen Sierra Leone.
First, many people, especially medical professionals were ready and willing to help when the outbreak occurred. In the process, a lot of them died, demonstrating a state of selflessness as they gave up their own lives in order to save others.
Second, external financial and technical assistance are indispensable to put health indices on the right track. He buttressed the point by citing the 3,000 troops the United States had to send to Liberia and the 750 others the United Kingdom had to send to Sierra Leone.
He debunked the idea that it is common sense that created book learning, by emphatically stating that no country can develop and be transformed without relying on educated professionals with the requisite expertise.
Third, external resource mobilization efforts matter. He stated that former President Tejan Kabbah who ended the rebel war, enjoyed a lot of goodwill from the international community and was able to do a lot for the country. In the same way, President Alassane Ouattara also enjoys a lot of support from the international community because of his track record, and that is why even though Côte d’Ivoire is a post-conflict country, tremendous progress has been achieved in 3 years.
With regard to the way forward for Sierra Leone, Dr. Yumkella proposed that Sierra Leone needs to be prepared for any new outbreaks. He asked whether as a country, we have learnt any lessons following the Ebola outbreak, and whether all funds received were used judiciously in preparation for any new outbreaks.
The UN energy expert went on to reveal that of the three countries worst affected by Ebola, Sierra Leone has taken the biggest blow. The economy has shrunk as a result of the Ebola outbreak, but also as a result of the sudden fall in the demand for iron-ore on the world market.
An economy that was projected to be the fastest growing in Africa, by the beginning of 2014, with a potential growth rate of 13%, attained only 7% in the same period.
According to the World Bank, Sierra Leone lost more revenues than the two other worst hit countries. Sierra Leone has lost US $1.4 billion, whereas Liberia lost US $585 million and Guinea US $240 million.
Dr. Yumkella disclosed that a joint donors’ conference will be organized next month in New York, but so far, US $8 billion has been estimated to finance the recovery effort. He called on all Sierra Leoneans in Côte d’Ivoire to pay very close attention on the outcome of this donor conference, so that they may be in the right position to hold authorities accountable for the post-ebola recovery effort.
The town hall meeting was chaired by Dr. Samuel H. Pieh of the United States Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire. Dr. Athanasius Coker, President of the Sierra Leone Association African Development Bank delivered the welcome remarks. Mr. Daniel Musa, President of the Sierra Leonean Community in Côte d’Ivoire delivered the vote of thanks.
Watch a video of Yumkella arriving in Aberdeen for today’s conference: