STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE H. E. Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at the LAUNCHING OF THE POST – EBOLA RECOVERY PROGRAMME 24TH JULY, 2015
A little over a year ago, we were attacked by an evil new enemy called Ebola. We did not understand this enemy, most of the world did not understand this enemy, and all of us did not see it coming to this part of the world. This vicious enemy brought about the death of over 3500 of our compatriots, stopped our economic growth, and reversed many of our gains in the health system. Farms were neglected; markets abandoned; trade and travel contracted; fiscal balances weakened; revenue decreased; and expenditure shut up to combat the disease.
But we fought back, with support from our international partners and the resilience of our health workers and people, today we are on the verge of conquering this enemy. We have had many cases when there were zero cases across the nation; 10 of 14 districts have gone over 90 days without a case; and three districts – Pujehun, Kailahun and Bonthe- have registered no cases since the beginning of the year.
Today, we are here to formally launch our battle plan not only to finally defeat the virus and get to zero, but also to ensure that the virus stays defeated. This means we need greater vigilance on Ebola now, we need to be prepared and resilient in the health sector and we need to restore lives and livelihoods to people who have suffered for over a year. That is why in the first nine months, our recovery plan emphasizes delivering on four major priority sectors –first, health; second, education; third, social protection; and revamping the economy and livelihoods by facilitating private sector recovery and growth.
Beyond the immediate 9-month recovery period, we will commence a two-year plan during which we must work to restore Sierra Leone to the path to prosperity, as we envisaged under the Agenda for Prosperity. During this time, we will continue building the resilience of the health sector. We will work to reinvigorate the private sector as a source of growth, create jobs and livelihoods in our economy. We will continue to transform our road networks, improve access to markets and reduce operational costs for large-scale businesses. Access to energy and water will be high priorities for the next few years.
Delivering on these infrastructure objectives can facilitate an economic transformation, by paving the way for large-scale agricultural processing, for economic diversification and job creation. Our battle plan is informed by the many lessons we have learned during the fight against Ebola. On a visit to the wholly Sierra Leonean run treatment centre at Hastings, I saw the great attention to the knots and bolts of infection control and recovery made at that centre; one that registered the highest survival rate of patients. The lessons learned are that Sierra Leoneans can ensure survival, we can ensure recovery; we can ensure hope. But as demonstrated by the dedicated men and women in that centre, it also shows that attention, collaboration and commitment to delivery of positive results will definitely lead to good outcomes.
That is why I have set up a delivery team at State House to ensure that our program is delivered. Support must get to those who need it; seeds must get to farmers; medicines to the sick, educational materials to the pupils. The program must ensure that frontlines of the battle get far more of the resources than the backlines. That must be the guiding principle, for that is what will get this country resilient and our people well-served.
Let me also use this opportunity to applaud the scale of commitments made in New York earlier this month at the UN Pledging Conference on Ebola. A total of $804.2 million was pledged directly to Sierra Leone. This is great confidence reposed in the Government of Sierra Leone, and the plans we have to defeat Ebola and ensure recovery. The further $1.7 billion in pledges for regional support, some of which will benefit our recovery directly is also reassuring. A total of $3.4 billion was pledged for the region. The generosity of the international community in supporting our recovery plans has been overwhelming. On behalf of the Government and the people of Sierra Leone, let me wholeheartedly thank our partners for their commitment to us and for restoring our country back to the path of prosperity. We also applaud the commitments made at the just concluded AU meeting in Malabo.
New York was a monumental international cooperation. But our mutual commitments and financial pledges are just the start of the journey. Another great step of the journey is for the pledges to be delivered, for them to become facts on the ground. We must all seize this unique opportunity for recovery in Sierra Leone and for a different kind of partnership between the Government of Sierra Leone and development partners – one that is aligned with the principles of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.
This calls for a greater coordination of our efforts and ensuring investments that build skills, systems and structures within Sierra Leone to deliver services and infrastructure for itself into the future. Mutual Accountability should be a key watchword in this engagement. Being guided by this principle requires open communications about what everyone is doing here in Sierra Leone to support the recovery, and where and to whom resources are being allocated and how those efforts are aligned specially to our post Ebola recovery plan. Nothing must be hidden, and all must be accountable.
Development actors should engage openly with the relevant MDAs on their activities in Sierra Leone and collaboration between these parties should lead to a better coordinated effort, and ultimately faster and better development outcomes. Donor partners have a responsibility in this regard to ensure the partners they are funding are collaborating in this way.
And for my part, I commit my Government to hold up our side of the mutual bargain – to be open with partners about our plans, progress, challenges and resource allocation, to deliver more detailed plans for our medium-term priorities in health, energy, water and private sector development and to guarantee effective delivery of those priorities through a strong delivery mechanism that will provide support and solve problems at all levels of government, right down to local service delivery.
And I say to the government representatives in this room, the Ministers, heads of agencies, MPs, Chairmen, Mayors, Local Councillors: I am entrusting to you a great responsibility here. You are to work with your colleagues in government, with development partners, with the business community, and with me personally, in an open and transparent manner, to restore our country on the path to prosperity which we embarked upon in 2007. It is our responsibility and I am staking the credibility of our government on fulfilling this responsibility, to fully deliver our recovery plans.
There must be no turning back, delivering on the plan is now a matter of life and death for our nation; we must choose life, growth and dignity and deliver the promises contained in our Post Ebola Recovery Plan. With strong commitment to delivering on the plans and with attention to accountability, transparency and changing the lives of our people, it is my honour to formally launch the Post Ebola Recovery Plan of Sierra Leone.
God Bless Sierra Leone and I thank you all for your attention.