Strengthening Covid-19 response in 11 out of the country’s 16 districts with the sum of 1.5 million EUR (Le16.5 Billion) by ‘Team Europe’ in Sierra Leone is underway.
An estimated 400,000 people in Bombali, Bonthe, Falaba, Kambia, Karene, Kenema, Koinadugu, Moyamba and Portloko among others stand to benefit from the fund.
The two new districts, Falaba and Karene are the key targets under the project owing to their status as the most deprived districts in terms of essential services.
The project will be implemented by Team Europe in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s).
Team Europe which consists of the European Union and Ireland was launched yesterday by the Minister of Economic Planning, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Ireland and Deputy Head of European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone.
Partner non-governmental organisations: Concern Worldwide, Trocaire, GOAL, Advocacy and Development Sierra Leone, Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation were present during the launching of the ceremony.
During the launching ceremony, Deputy Head of EU Delegation to Sierra Leone, Ms Jamila El-assaidi saw the launching of the Team Europe initiative as a significant one.
The Team Europe’s significance, Ms Assaidi said rested on a true partnership between The European Union and Ireland, recognition of the value of NGO’s and CSO’s in national development.
A contribution of the six-partner NGO’s to the decentralised response to the Covid-19 crisis at district level is also equally recognised.
“To succeed in our fight, of course, there needs to be cooperation and understanding between all those different actors based on best practice and sound regulations,” she said.
Ms Assaidi spoke about the contribution her institution had been making since Covid-19 broke out in Sierra Leone in March this year.
Ms Assaidi said the EU had always been in close partnership with national and local authorities as well as NGO’s and other development partners to respond to the crisis.
The EU Deputy Head made reference to the financial interventions her institution had made to Sierra Leone to bolster its response to Covid-19 pandemic.
To allow a flexible government response to Covid-19, Ms Assaidi said, the EU speeded up the disbursement of 10.000.000 (Le120 Billion), 2.000.000 EUR (Le 50 Billion), as budgetary and financial aids to the most vulnerable communities in Freetown.
In its support to the decentralised response to Covid-19, she went on, 10.000.000 EUR (Le120 Billion) worth of grants to the local councils of Bombali, Kambia, Kenema and Pujehun and that the sum of 2.000.000 EUR (Le 24 Billion) will be committed for the same purpose in the northern districts of Karene and Falaba.
Ms Assaidi also told the audience that through the National Commission for Social Action (NACSA) Social Protection Emergency Scheme 5.200.000 EUR (Le 60 Billion) was spent by EU as cash transfers to 37.000 of the most vulnerable Sierra Leoneans.
To contribute to the National Response Strategy, she continued the EU adjusted most of its programmes while continuing to support high labour infrastructure development projects and mid-term development plans.
In her address, Head of Development in the Irish Embassy, Mary O’Neill said the Team Europe was launched to support district-level response and to support CSO’s response to the pandemic.
Madam O’Neill said the Embassy had ensured a coherent integrated global response to over-arching priorities to reduce Covid-19 incidents and mitigate the impact.
“The Irish Embassy wants to strengthen Civil Society Organisations in Sierra Leone,” she assured
Ms O’Neill also mentioned the sum of 6M EUR which, she said, her country had spent in the areas of security, sexual and gender-based violence, human rights abuse among others.
“There will be bumps along the way, but keeping an eye to the long term goals will guide us,” she expressed hope.
Ireland, she says, is a small country in Europe but can achieve if there is unity and cooperation.
She called on government not to allow Covid-19 to overshadow the development plans.
Keynote address was made by the Minister of Planning and Development, Dr Francis Kaikai.
The Minister referred to the launching of ‘Team Europe’ Initiative as a laudable venture.
Minister Kaikai remains particularly appreciative of localising the initiative in the country.
“Localising and transferring ownership is real development,” he said.
Dr Kaikai also appreciated the role of EU and Irish Embassy to the fight against Covid-19 in the country.
The Minster also urged the implementing NGO’s, Concern Worldwide, Trocaire and Goal to work collaboratively with the local authorities and District Covid-19 Response Centres as well as their counterpart, World Vision.
He also called on NGO’s to support long term activities in the operational districts especially agriculture to support government’s recovery plan.
“Government does not have a separate recovery programme,” Minister Kaikai said.
The mid-term budget recently tabled in parliament, Dr Kaikai said, was about the country’s recovery plan.
“The budget logic is to support the country’s recovery and mid-term development plans,” he said.
Launching of the ‘Team Europe’ Initiative by the Minister formed part of the ceremony.