In the past years, Sierra Leone has faced and overcome great obstacles. In 2014 with the emergence of the Ebola epidemic, we experienced one of the worst international health disasters in history. At around the same time, there was a sharp fall in world iron ore prices and the large iron ore mining operations that were playing an instrumental role in our nation’s economic growth, were forced to scale back.
This double shock to our nation’s socio-economic environment severely impacted the development activities my government had outlined in the Agenda for Prosperity (2013–2018).
It was against this background that in March 2015, my government developed and implemented a Transition and Recovery Plan to restore Sierra Leone to the path of the Agenda for Prosperity, while simultaneously working to attain and maintain a resilient zero number of Ebola Virus Disease cases.
The National Ebola Recovery Strategy for Sierra Leone is a process that is fully aligned with our Agenda for Prosperity and will help our country transition seamlessly from the Ebola response to economic recovery.
The implementation of this Strategy was split into two phases: The Early Recovery phase (6-9 months) and the Recovery phase (10-24 months).
The focus of the Early Recovery phase was to:
Restore basic health services throughout the country and maintain a zero rate of Ebola infection
Return children to school safely
Protect vulnerable populations and
Assist private sector recovery
This phase of our National Ebola Recovery Strategy concluded on 31st March 2016 and has yielded positive results based on feedback from communities and according to an independent evaluation, which will shortly be available on this website.
In our health service, all health facilities have been equipped with temporary triage facilities so that the most critical patients receive medical care first; 29,000 children were cured from malnutrition; 569,000 malaria-positive children under 5 treated with ACTs - the treatment recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The Ebola crisis left some 1.7 million Sierra Leonean children without schooling at the beginning of the 2014/2015 school year. To make up lost ground, we have waived school fees for 1.1M students; 9,000 schools are now using new core content; 9,000 pregnant girls and teenage mothers have been provided with alternative education; and 206 new classrooms were built in previously severely overcrowded schools.
We have been able to safeguard 64,800 vulnerable households and help them meet their immediate needs with cash transfers; and we have provided 37,500 EVD-affected and vulnerable persons with minimum assistance packages. Over the long term, this cash transfer programme will become part of a sustainable national-level social welfare programme.
Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and our immediate priorities focused on helping our farmers return to their fields, improving their farming techniques and supporting them with crops that would provide them with an income, with the added benefit of improving food security.
We have also created the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency to create a better environment for small and medium enterprises to thrive and operate in the country.
While we recognise that challenges remain in the four sectors targeted during the Early Recovery phase, appreciable progress has and continues to be made.
Significantly, this March, the International Monetary Fund has confirmed that “Sierra Leone’s economy is recovering from the twin shocks of the Ebola virus epidemic and the halt in iron-ore mining. Economic momentum is building again, and GDP is expected to grow by 4.3 percent this year from a contraction of 21 percent in 2015.”
Detailed tracking and implementation of the next phase of our recovery programme will begin on June 1st this year. Our Recovery Priority sectors have been expanded from the Early Recovery focus on Education, Health, Social Protection and the Private Sector to include Energy, Water and Governance.
For each of these seven priority sectors, we have set specific and measurable targets to deliver by June 2017. Our objectives have the potential to transform our society and our economy.
Over the next 15 months, you will see an improved health care system, with the resilience to prevent further epidemics. Medical care for pregnant women, improved hygiene and sanitation, and comprehensive vaccination and medical programmes for under fives will prevent the needless deaths of thousands of women and children.
Energy and water
Energy and water are high priorities. Safe drinking water is a human right, and a combination of new and rehabilitated infrastructure, environmental protection and attention to governance will ensure that hundreds of thousands more Sierra Leoneans have that right. We will double operational power generation capacity and double access to electricity. This will also improve medical care and education and reduce operational costs for businesses.
The private sector has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the Government in Sierra Leone's journey towards economic sustainability. Sector-focused measures will aid private sector job creation and SME growth, particularly in the agricultural sector, enhancing our business environment and supporting an integrated value chain approach.
Education is a moral right and an economic necessity; and in a world that is ever more competitive, Sierra Leone’s children deserve the chance to pursue their dreams and achieve their ambitions. To give them that opportunity, we are investing in building schools and training our teachers to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to be effective in their profession.
We cannot create a more equitable society in Sierra Leone without supporting our most vulnerable, and our Recovery Priorities programme will provide immediate relief to vulnerable households through income support, and by ensuring continuous care for survivors suffering from the long-term complications of Ebola.
Good governance is as important as economic growth in reducing poverty. Reforming government systems and processes; and improving public engagement with the fight against corruption through the new Pay-No-Bribe reporting platform, will bring in much needed foreign and diaspora investment by making our business environment more attractive; and will ensure that our country’s resources are targeted where they are most needed and most effective.
There are wide variations in income, resources and services between the different regions. Addressing regional disparities will assist in a more equitable distribution of resources, and in dealing with the growing problem of urbanisation.
We have taken on board lessons from the Ebola response about the importance of community ownership and decentralisation. We will continue to work closely with the Paramount Chiefs and traditional chiefdom structures and with the District Council structures to support implementation and accountability at district and local levels.
A strong delivery mechanism
These Recovery Priorities have the support of our funding partners. Delivering them must be a national effort. On 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, 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.
This is a pivotal moment for Sierra Leone. We have been granted an unprecedented opportunity to create the nation that we want our children to inherit and I ask you all to join me in choosing life, growth and dignity.
May God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone