President Bio launches Social Investment Fund five years after Ebola

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 August 2020:

Last Thursday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone launched the country’s Post-Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF) project, five years after the country was declared free of Ebola by WHO.

The aim of the PERSIF project is to provide basic social services and rebuild local economic livelihoods and support job creation.

Key components and deliverables of the $12.4 million project include – basic social services delivery, provision of medical equipment and medicines for Maternity Centres, Primary Health Units, and Community Health Posts, improve local economic livelihoods and job creation by creating access to finance and support economic activity and cross-border trade.

Addressing his audience, president Bio said: “Ebola took a heavier toll on our communities where the disease was most prevalent — especially on our border and some urban communities. Education, a thriving informal economy, healthcare infrastructure, and basic social services collapsed. In the circumstance, vulnerable populations (orphans, the old, the sick, the disabled, women) fared even worse.”

The president pointed out that the socio-economic and health indicators since 2014 are still only marginally better in those communities, adding that six years on, the deep and painful footprints of the Ebola Virus Epidemic are still with Sierra Leoneans, after it claimed thousands and, most importantly, hundreds of the lives of medical workers.

“To get those vulnerable populations and vulnerable communities on the pathway to inclusive and sustainable development, therefore, we emphasised in various clusters of our Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) that we must put in place critical enablers of socio-economic development and transformation. These include providing basic social services and the regeneration of local economic activity.

“In our New Direction manifesto, we promised ‘efficient and effective management of the state that will make Sierra Leone a significantly better country through, among other things, inclusive politics, inclusive economic growth, inclusive development.’ This means that vulnerable people and vulnerable communities should be accorded an equal chance to thrive. To our minds, uneven investments in development do not make for sustainable development,” he said.

Minister of Social Welfare, Baindu Dassama-Kamara, emphasised the importance of providing social services in the selected places, restore livelihood and economic opportunities for affected beneficiaries. She said that the Association of Ebola Survivors is actively involved in the implementation process and noted that the project is expected to improve community response to future outbreaks.

Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said that through effective re-engagement, the New Direction Government has salvaged the project, and that this would go a long way to take care of the Ebola survivors who were abandoned by the previous government. He assured of the government’s determination to effectively implement the project.

Country Manager of the African Development Bank, Dr Peninah Kariuki, said that the project is special because it addresses the special needs of communities affected by the Ebola outbreak by restoring basic social services and reviving local economic opportunities. She also reaffirmed the Bank’s commitment to working with the various partners to ensuring the timely implementation of the project.

This is the president’s speech in full:

“Six years on, the deep and painful footprints of the Ebola Virus Epidemic are still with us. We lost thousands of our compatriots and hundreds of our medical workers. Two days ago, we responded as a nation to that painful memory even as, but especially as we are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We instituted, for the very first time in the history of this country, a wholly-government-paid-for group life insurance scheme that assures that every healthcare worker who dies or is incapacitated in the course of duty, is catered for with a generous financial package that I announced. So to our healthcare workers, my Government continues to say through deeds and commitments that we value your service to our nation and your peerless contribution to preserving healthy lives and our human capital development agenda.

As speaker after speaker has noted, Ebola took a heavier toll on our communities where the disease was most prevalent — especially on our border and some urban communities.

Education, a thriving informal economy, healthcare infrastructure, and basic social services collapsed. In the circumstance, vulnerable populations (orphans, the old, the sick, the disabled, women) fared even worse. Socio-economic and health indicators are still only marginally better in those communities, six years on.

In our New Direction manifesto, we promised “efficient and effective management of the state that will make Sierra Leone a significantly better country through, among other things, inclusive politics, inclusive economic growth, inclusive development.” This means that vulnerable people and vulnerable communities should be accorded an equal chance to thrive. To our minds, uneven investments in development do not make for sustainable development.

To get those vulnerable populations and vulnerable communities on the pathway to inclusive and sustainable development therefore, we emphasised in various clusters of our Medium Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) that we must put in place critical enablers of socio-economic development and transformation. These include providing basic social services and the regeneration of local economic activity.

In essence, we believe that one saves lives during disease outbreaks, and one continues to save lives in the wake of those outbreaks, when one sustains livelihoods. Our COVID-19 response, especially with our Quick Action Economic Recovery Programme, essentially encapsulates our philosophy that resilience can be deliberately planned for, implemented, measured, and built upon accordingly.

Our very practical enthusiasm in reworking this project since 2018 underlies the premium we place on the outcomes of this Post-Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF) project.

As I have already stated, those outcomes are all critical to those human capital development priorities we have set as a government.

Training more skilled birth attendants and reducing maternal mortality, increasing access to potable water and sanitation, improving access to healthcare, and increasing school attendance are crucial for the future inclusive and sustainable development needs of this nation.

Improved access to finance, training in entrepreneurship especially innovative business ideas, will both have the impact of rejuvenating local border economies and reducing poverty and vulnerabilities in those communities.

By creating appropriate institutions, training skilled personnel and community groups, organising leadership, and building infrastructure.

Together, the outcomes referred to by various speakers will narrow potential economic and social disparities in those communities. It will also make those communities more resilient to the shocks of disease outbreaks. So when disaster strikes, the human toll and the post-disaster economic, social, and development tolls will be far less adverse.

I am therefore pleased to announce the two key components and deliverables within each of those components for this PERSIF Project.

COMPONENT 1 – BASIC SOCIAL SERVICES

  1. For delivering basic social services, the Government of Sierra Leone, through the implementing ministry and allied agencies, will rehabilitate and provide medical equipment plus an initial stock of medicines for Maternity Centres, Primary Health Units, and Community Health Posts in the target communities. The Project will also provide home equipment for nurses’ quarters and motorbikes for outreach activities. Additionally, the project will train, support, and strengthen social workers and persons providing psychosocial counselling.
  2. The Project will also provide solar-powered water supply systems as well as hand-pumped systems for health units, schools, and small communities.
  3. The project will provide pour-flush toilets for schools and dry sanitation toilets for schools and communities. Public sanitation facilities will also be constructed. Additionally, Community-Led Total Sanitation initiatives will be introduced. To consolidate and sustain these Water and sanitation gains in those communities, the project will establish WASH artisan training and WASH entrepreneurs training and committees.

COMPONENT 2: LOCAL ECONOMIC LIVELIHOODS AND JOB CREATION

The objective is to create access to finance and support economic activity and cross-border trade.

  1. The Project will construct and provide office equipment for Multipurpose Trade Facilitation, Information, and Learning Centres. The Government of Sierra Leone through the implementing ministries will train Forty Trade Facilitation, Information Officers.
  2. There is further provision for training four thousand women in female cross borders’ associations in adult literacy and numeracy. To our minds, this is a critical enabler for enhanced entrepreneurial skills.
  3. The Project will provide start-up matching grants to seven thousand Cash transfer beneficiaries (who will be mainly women and girls) and it will also conduct entrepreneurship training for cash transfer beneficiaries.
  4. The project will finance new Micro-Projects and support will be given to community groups, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. It is my fervent hope that this project will be implemented without the usual bottlenecks that forestall progress as it is very important to the lives of beneficiaries in those targeted communities. It is also critical to my Government’s agenda of providing economic opportunity to otherwise vulnerable groups and fully including those populations in the development ecosystem.

I am assured, and I note with pleasure, that necessary institutional arrangements are in place and the Mano River Union Secretariat, under the Secretary-General as Chair of the Advisory Board, will effectively perform its coordinating role as the project is implemented in our sister Republics of Liberia and Guinea.

I also note that the Project Fiduciary Management Unit of the Ministry of Finance will provide adequate supervision and effective management. Bear in mind that accountability and transparency are of paramount importance for this project.

Corruption should not hinder development gains especially in vulnerable communities and for vulnerable populations.

I urge the Ministry of Social Welfare as executing agency to provide the required institutional support for implementing this project. The “Multi-Sectoral Steering Committee” that is chaired by the Ministry of Finance must provide policy guidance and oversight for the Project Coordination Unit that is housed in the Ministry of Social Welfare.

I would also like to underscore the importance of robust monitoring and evaluation. I am informed that the National Monitoring and Evaluation Department housed in my Office will collaborate with the project team in the Ministry of Social Welfare to track progress, undertake periodic monitoring of project implementation, and ensure that project goals and targets are met. I expect that timely reports will be provided to my office on progress made on the implementation of this project.

I am also delighted to note that the project design recognizes the important role of community stakeholders as beneficiaries of the project. These will include mainly local opinion leaders, women’s group leaders, and community youth group leaders in cross-border areas.

So let me conclude by thanking the African Development Bank that has worked in partnership with the multinational agency, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI), to provide this grant. With their extra pair of hands, my Government has today implemented programmes that will transform local economies, provide opportunity, and transform the lives of vulnerable populations that continue to be adversely affected by the Ebola scourge six years on.

It is therefore my singular honour to launch the Post-Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund project. I thank you all for your attention.”

2 Comments

  1. Better late than never. The post Ebola Recovery Social investment Fund project launched by President Bio, is welcome by all, especially the communities that stand to benefit. It came after five years, when our fellow countrymen, women and children lost their lives as a result of that deadly virus. It is good to see some of the funding will go to communities in the border region. Apart of our corrupt politicians, LIBERIA and GUINEA HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE SOURCE OF OUR PROBLEMS in Sierra leone -RUF and EBOLA. I suppose a lot more have since died in its wake. Because some lost the main breadwinners in their families.

    Firstly, one wonders what happened to all the initial Ebola funds earmarked for that period? Has anyone ever been held accountable for the missing funds? Or God forbide sent to jail? Secondly, are we going to wait for an other five years for the COVID19 funds, to be distributed to communities? A lot of people will start screaming, that this government is on the case. We had so much promise from our corrupt politicians, if we bag them up they will reach for the sky. If we go by these lofty promises, Sierra leone by now, should be a member of the G20 never mind the G7 of industrial countries.

    Unfortunately, fifty years after independence we still haven’t found our stride. I was disappointed with one part of the president’s speech. “Corruption should not hinder development gains” He should have said:”UNDER MY GOVERNMENT, I WILL NOT TOLERATE ANY FORM OF CORRUPTION. MY GOVERNMENT WILL STAMP HARD AGAINST THOSE ENEMIES OF THE STATE. “To me it sounded like he is saying,”under my government, you can engage in that Sierra Leonean disease we call CORRUPTION, but as long as you don’t tell me, I will look the other way” May God bless the republic of Sierra leone.

  2. There is less clarity on the objectivity of this project; whether it is an undertaking to alleviate the suffering of communities in District border towns from the impact of the Ebola pandemic that ended 4 years ago, or a CUNNING strategy to marginalize central districts especially Bombali, Tonkolili, Port Loko and Western Rural. Has a survey been carried out to evaluate the degree of devastation of the Ebola pandemic across the 16 districts in the country? Are all the 8 border districts: Kambia, Karina, Falaba, Koinadugu, Kono, Kailahun, Kenema and Pujehun, the only beneficiaries of this project? Obviously, the remaining 4 districts: Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba and Western Urban have benefited, or stand to benefit, from substantial government revenues for their development agendas. What are the development plans for the central districts?

    It is also not clear why this project is hinged directly to the Ebola pandemic. Since the end of this virus-driven disease in 2016, the country’s economic, social and political fortunes have been on a downward spiral; and now exacerbated by the resurgence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Midway within this period (2016-2020) there has been a change of government. Why are the bearings of this project not spread across the whole period, up to and including the present deplorable state of the economy?

    If the country were in a good state of affairs, there wouldn’t have been any need for such a project. Is the whole process, another unobtrusive way of pointing the finger at the last administration for the failure and ineptitude of the present government in revitalizing the economy? Why not give this money directly to all the Ebola victims or survivors across the country, instead of formulating a pretext for the continuous marginalization of certain districts or regions?

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