Almost a year ago, I launched the first phase of our recovery priorities. It was our battle plan not only to defeat the virus and get to zero, but also to ensure that the virus stays defeated. It was a battle plan that we all worked very hard to implement so vigorously that only three months after its launch, on 7 November 2015, we collectively achieved the first objective of ridding this great country of Ebola. And when three months later the stubborn disease attempted to reemerge; we were prepared enough to quickly respond and to finally end the scourge in March 2016.
We have since maintained the resilient zero infection benchmark and we have remained engaged with the other part of our battle plan -- to deal with the devastating social and economic impact of this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. We have remained engaged with our plan to return our kids to schools, to put our farmers back to work, to support the most vulnerable of our compatriots and to put our economy on the path growth.
An independent evaluation of the results of this phase has found that overall the process has been successful and progress has been made.
Communities have reported improvements in the health service, improvement in the care available for our pregnant women, mothers and young children, improvement in facilities for emergency care, and in the availability of water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.
You have confirmed that the school fee waiver encouraged school children to return to school and that a special learning programme helped them gain the ground they lost during the Ebola epidemic. We heard how alternative education centres ensured that as many as 9000 pregnant schoolgirls were able to continue their education.
Our most vulnerable families and individuals, including our Ebola survivors benefitted from minimum assistance packages and cash transfers. Free basic health services were also extended to our Ebola survivors and we began the process of providing them with much needed specialised care and treatment.
Our farmers have confirmed that the recovery process successfully provided many of them with seeds and fertiliser to support their return to their fields.
But we also acknowledge that there is still work to be done to fix our economy; to put it back on the path of full recovery. This bit has been as difficult as it can get. The slump in the price of commodities has added to the economic woes of Ebola which is why we must continue to work together with renewed zeal and commitment.
We are here today not just to launch a set of priorities, a set of actions that my government will be responsible for delivering, but to launch a new way of working - amongst ourselves, within government and across MDAs, with our development partners, with the private sector, and with all of you, the citizens of Sierra Leone.
My Government’s specific priorities remain Education, Health, Social Protection and the Private Sector. To these, I have added Energy, Water and Governance. Our plans for progress in these areas have the potential to create visible change in Sierra Leone and set the country on the path towards sustainable and inclusive prosperity for everyone.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today’s launch of our second phase of the recovery priorities would once again provide Sierra Leoneans across the country the opportunity to come together and secure the future prosperity of our country. Today, I would once again request our development partners and the international community to continue to support our recovery process and to align that support with our priorities.
Over the next 12 months, we will strive to strengthen the resilience of the health sector to be able to prevent future epidemics; prevent at least 600 women and 5000 children from dying needlessly by improving medical care for pregnant women and ensuring the availability of necessary medicines for children Under Five. Our network of community health care workers will be deepened and strengthened so that pregnant women and children can access basic health interventions even in our most remote locations.
We will support our most vulnerable including over 4,000 Ebola survivors across the country and provide cash transfers to 47,000 targeted families to help them break the cycle of poverty by enhancing their access to basic services such as healthcare, education, good nutrition and water.
The major cause of our recent water crisis is the disregard for our conservation areas and you all have a vital role to play protecting the environment, preventing and reversing deforestation and supporting the government as we enforce our conservation zones. Together, we will alleviate our water crisis through a combination of new and rehabilitated infrastructure, and attention to governance. This will improve access to water for 600,000 people in Freetown and over 700,000 people in rural areas.
My Government remains resolved to increase access to energy. This will also mean better medical care, education and business conditions. Within the next twelve months, our target is to improve the living conditions of 250,000 families and individuals around the country. We will deliver this through a mix of additional renewable and non-renewable energy operational and by rehabilitating and expanding electricity transmission and distribution.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will provide better learning environments and learning outcomes by training over 40,000 teachers in core subject, constructing new classrooms, water and sanitation facilities and by introducing a national feeding programme for primary schools.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry will give our farmers training, tools, seeds and access to finance. These measures will provide 10,000 more agricultural jobs so that we can again become a nation capable of feeding itself. Targeted support for 1000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises such as access to finance, extension services and inputs should help enhance productivity, open up new markets, grow businesses, take on employees and contribute to Sierra Leone’s revenue.
To achieve these tasks, we must pay closer attention to addressing wastages and leakages during the implementation of our recovery programme. The Anti Corruption Commission will pay closer attention to prevent and punish corruption. Our nation cannot afford the diversion of essential investments meant for our recovery into individual pockets. Our communities and individuals should not have to bribe service providers for public services to which they are entitled.
One of our greatest challenges in the year ahead is to work collectively to embed a culture of zero-tolerance to corruption within our nation. The Anti Corruption Commission’s new ‘Pay no Bribe’ online platform gives everyone the tools to take part in the fight against corruption in our public services, and I urge you to make use of it.
We will also give special attention to improving the operation of the Freetown port; improving the process of drug procurement and distribution so that public health units have sufficient stocks of drugs; and to ensuring long-term payroll system sustainability and accountability starting with the education and health sectors.
In our fight against Ebola and in our process of recovery, we must thank our international partners and the wider international community for their sustained support to Sierra Leone. They have been by our side throughout this journey providing encouragement, advice and other forms of support. We rely on their continued partnership in pursuit of a joint vision for Sierra Leone’s prosperity. This is why we insist that your activities and programmes as partners must align with these recovery priorities, because this is what true partnership really is- working together to achieve a common objective.
Today I ask all Sierra Leoneans to commit to working together to make the next stage of this journey a success – our Paramount Chiefs, to engage your communities, alert District Councils and MDAs in your area-- religious Leaders, to mobilise your people in a spirit of faith and partnership to support the recovery efforts. Today I ask our Local Councils to work with development partners, NGOs and the MDAs in your communities to drive the delivery of our plans.
Civil society – your independent participation in the process, tracking and evaluating will help drive accountability and ensure the quality and consistency of delivery.
And to my Ministers, Government officials and public sector employees, particularly the Initiative and Sub-Initiative Owners leading the delivery of these priorities – the recovery process has made immense demands on your energy, resources and time. These are sacrifices that you are making on behalf of all of us and an example of the spirit of public service we should all aspire to.
To all Sierra Leoneans – we fought together to defeat Ebola; we worked together to implement the first phase of our recovery – to restore confidence in the health sector, to restore livelihoods, to reopen schools and to support vulnerable groups.
Implementing this second phase will take our country back to the Agenda for Prosperity pathway. Today is a great opportunity to renew our commitments and as I launch the Recovery Priorities, let me once again urge everyone including our development partners to ensure that in course of the next 12 months, our efforts, activities and focus are aligned to the Recovery Priorities.
Ebola don go; leh we make salone grow!
I thank you! Ramandan Kareem!