From 18th to 24th October 2020, UNDP Sierra Leone joined the United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) from Sierra Leone and Liberia to jointly conduct a week-long simulations exercise at the Jendema/Bo Waterside Border. Facilitated by the Mano River Union, UNDP’s support to the border exercise has come timely to assess Covid-19 gaps that could hinder the realization of the rights of citizens especially women who are mostly involved in trade along the Liberia-Sierra Leone Border.
Attracted to the border visit are stakeholders from Liberia and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health, national and district Covid-19 response structures, MRU Secretariat, and the Joint Border Security Units.
Recognizing member states predictable increased movements after reopening of the border, the rationale for such cross border exercise was to inform operating standards and mitigation measures elusive to ensure safe citizens’ movement amidst trade and economic interactions between the two member states and by extension, in all MRU member states.
In August 2020 MRU and UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Sierra Leone jointly assessed the Jendema/Bo Waterside Joint Border Unit to get first-hand information from the communities and observe the ground level situation. This assessment brought out challenges and proffered recommendations which are useful to guide possible reopening of the MRU borders.
On the 11th March 2020, the index case in the MRU was confirmed in Ivory Coast followed by Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone respectively. In the wake of these confirmed cases, Governments in member states introduced robust measures which ranged from indefinite ban on religious and social gatherings, to closure of schools and the MRU borders.
Similarly, Government regulations and restrictions on MRU cross borders trade has negatively impacted the lives of citizens in those border communities, especially among women traders who are largely the main source of income for their families and contribute to the economic viability of their communities.