Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 April 2020:
The World Bank today approved a US$7.5 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to help Sierra Leone respond to the threat posed by the Coronavirus outbreak and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness.
The funds will fill critical financing gaps that have been identified due to the new emergency preparedness and response needs created by the global pandemic.
With support from the World Bank and other development partners, the government has activated the Public Health Emergency Operations Center and developed a national COVID-19 preparedness plan, which focuses primarily on strengthening surveillance at the three official points of entry, improving case management, and conducting effective campaigns at the national, subnational and community levels.
The project will support the prevention, detection and response to the threat posed by the virus, and will finance the provision of medical supplies, laboratory diagnostic equipment, including test kits in the designated health facilities. In addition, it will provide for optimal medical care and treatment at isolation units, as well as train health facilities staff and front-line workers on risk mitigation measures.
“This project will support the government of Sierra Leone in strengthening the health systems and preparedness in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone.
“Building on the experience of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the World Bank is committed to use all its operational and policy instruments and to work with all partners in helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country,” she said.
The World Bank Group is rolling out a $14 billion fast-track package to strengthen the COVID-19 response in developing countries and shorten the time to recovery.
The immediate response includes financing, policy advice and technical assistance to help countries cope with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
The IFC is providing $8 billion in financing to help private companies affected by the pandemic and preserve jobs. IBRD and IDA are making an initial US$6 billion available for the health-response. As countries need broader support, the World Bank Group will deploy up to $160 billion over 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.
In another significant development, Sierra Leone also will receive a $30 million grant from a new World Bank project benefiting seven West African countries to help harmonize and strengthen statistical systems in the respective countries.
The overall objective of the project (Harmonizing and Improving Statistics in West Africa) is to strengthen the statistical systems of participating countries and regional bodies in Africa to produce, disseminate and enhance the use of core economic and social statistics.
For Sierra Leone, data production activities planned include a mid-term census, agricultural surveys, enterprise surveys and the next round of the integrated household survey. The project will also support existing data production activities, such as the consumer price index and national accounts.
All of these data collection activities will be done to new regional standards, developed and agreed on by the beneficiary countries, ECOWAS and the AU in consultation with international experts from the World Bank, the IMF, the FAO and others. For Sierra Leone, the project will also support a comprehensive rehabilitation and expansion of the Stats SL office.
“This grant has come at the right time as it will enable the country and Stats SL to routinely implement key national surveys and censuses which will generate the requisite data to measure progress of the indicators in our national goals set in the Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019-2023, as well as those for global goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Prof. Osman Sankoh, Statistician General of Sierra Leone.
“Additionally, with the extensive refurbishment and expansion of our headquarters in Freetown and all our regional and district offices, our staff will have a conducive environment to work in. This will boost up productivity,” Sankoh said.
Good data are essential to address the socio-economic development challenges facing the West Africa region in general, and the seven beneficiary countries in particular. Regular population censuses, household surveys, data of critical social concerns and key economic statistics such as agricultural and enterprise censuses and surveys are key to inform the decision-making process, enable efficient allocation of resources, and assess the effects of development policies and interventions.
Institutional weaknesses and inconsistent financing limit the quality of statistics, leading to poor knowledge management and difficulties in addressing emerging challenges in various development sectors.
“Good statistics can inform and improve the transparency and accountability of policy-making, both of which are essential for good governance,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone.
“The World Bank is committed to improving the statistical capacity of Sierra Leone and this project will provide the critical funding needed by Stats SL to undertake the necessary reforms, which will enable it produce quality and credible data that will contribute to the attainment of the national development goals of the Government,” she said.
The project, in total sum of $379 million, was approved by the Board of the World Bank Group on March 26, 2020 and comprises of grants and credits. Beneficiary countries include Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo.