By Memuna Forna
Saidu Conton-Sesay, the Chief of Staff, welcomed development partners to State House on Friday 12 August 2016 to update them on the progress of the President’s Recovery Priorities and plans for the next six months of the process.
Following the economic impact of the Ebola epidemic and the commodities price slump, the President’s Recovery Priorities were instituted to drive through a series of quantifiable development initiatives in education, energy, health, social protection, water, private governance and the private sector, which will provide a considerable socio-economic boost to Sierra Leone by June 2017.
At the meeting, development partners were briefed on the successes and challenges of the past three months, as well as lessons learned.
Milestones have been achieved and outcomes delivered across all sectors. As part of its drive to improve maternal and child mortality rates – one of its key result areas under the President’s Recovery Priorities – the Ministry of Health has removed 762 unverified staff from its payroll, conducted a geo mapping of Community Health Workers around the country and trained staff in new maternal death surveillance.
The building blocks of a system to provide continuous care for Ebola affected people are being put in place, with the establishment of a national network of 140 survivor advocates in the communities, and a National Ebola Desk Office within the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, as well as a survivors’ data base. The drive to provide support to 59,000 extremely poor households is well underway with 41,040 now receiving unconditional cash transfers from NaCSA.
A key aim of the recovery process, is to improve learning outcomes by training at least 40,000 teachers in core subjects and reduce overcrowding in severely affected schools. The Ministry of Education is currently verifying unapproved Government schools in preparation for the next school year, which will ensure those that meet relevant criteria will also be included in the new nationwide school feeding programme which will be introduced next term.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry are working jointly on private sector development. As part of this process, 52 Agriculture Business Centres around the country will be made fit for purpose, and improved seed rice has been distributed to over 45,000 farmers which will help improve their harvest. MAFFS is also working with the Ministry of Water Resources on a tree planting campaign which will help reverse soil erosion and contribute to the sustainability of our water supply. Operationalisation of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency is underway.
A nationwide water point mapping survey will provide the background information necessary to improve and increase access to safe sustainable water supplies. Similarly, approval of the Renewable Energy Policy will help development in this sector, increasing access to electricity for Sierra Leoneans.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is in the process of launching its Pay No Bribe online reporting platform, which will make it easier for consumers to report when and where they have been asked to pay a bribe to access public services and provide valuable data which will help the fight against corruption.
Following the update, Chris Gabelle, the Deputy Head of DFID in Sierra Leone explained that the UK had invested £240 million in the President’s Recovery Priorities and said: “We are very aware of the challenges and pleased with the successes and progress made to date in such a short period of time.”