May 7, 2020 Freetown: UNDP procured and donated COVID-19 infection prevention and control hygiene supplies and information to representatives of the Mano River Union (MRU) and the Office of National Security (ONS). The items which included 37 locally produced hand washing stations, 8,500 posters and flyers and 22 banners with COVID-19 mitigation information and risk communication, 350 reusable face masks, 48 cartons of liquid and bar soaps among other materials will be sent to support border communities in Kambia, Pujehun, Port Loko and Kono districts. The communities will also be equipped with emergency response materials that are currently being procured.

Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea to the Northwest and Liberia to the Southwest. The three countries share a lot in common in terms of social, economic and political aspects. Ebola in Sierra Leone was believed to have broken out in Kailahun district at the border entry point with Guinea from where the case reported to have come.

Recognizing the shared threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to the health and economic security of the people of the Mano River Union States and the urgent need to address these concerns by all parties, UNDP Sierra Leone is supporting the training of Joint Boarder Security Committees established across communities located in border chiefdoms of Sierra Leone sharing borders with Guinea and Liberia.

UNDP is also supporting trainings for border authorities designed around subjects of state and border security, and COVID-19 response, Infectious disease identification, reporting, prevention and control measures, as well as risk communication and community engagement.

UNDP’s support to the joint border COVID-19 intervention aims to enhance the skills and capabilities of border and local community authorities to better address COVID-19 and its challenges. The intervention builds on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the MRU four UNDP Country Offices in November 2019 for improved collaboration among member states and UNDP within the sub-region and to respond to situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This partnership is central both to the MRU and to the Government of Sierra Leone particularly across the border communities and will provide a new-face in responding to COVID-19 and to other security issues that pose threat to the MRU states, considering Sierra Leone’s close ties with Guinea and Liberia”  says UNDP Rule of Law Expert and Programme Manager, Walter Neba.

The importance of the Union to the three countries - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea was evident during and after the Ebola outbreak where authorities and communities across the borders joined hands to respond to combating Ebola and its after-effects. The joint intervetnions are also fullfilling UNDP's commitment to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by building strong Governance institutions even at the local level and equally strong partnerships for development.

This maiden COVID-19 border intervention will empower community-based security structures for better case surveillance and contact tracing. These borders are very remote and hard-to-reach making technological innovations widely used elsewhere in the world for managing COVID-19 only a thought yet they are 'hot-spots' for the spread of the virus. With little or no information reaching them, the communities are highly at-risk. That is why UNDP is supporting training of border security for COVID-19, helping financially towards physical deployments and face-to-face community engagement activities in these areas.

This partnership is also critical for promoting inclusive participation and the Leave-no-one-behind principle in the fight against the Corona Virus while fostering national and regional security.

The COVID-19 intervention is part of the fullfilment of the committements embedded in UNDP's Country Programme Document (CPD) for Sierra Leone covering 2020 to 2030  which emphasizes focus on building resilience of vulnerable (border) communities to shocks. The initial support provided totals to $75,000 is funded from its core resources and the Global Rule of Law fund. The joint border response activities are also UNDP's committment to providing further support to the Governments and people of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea through the MRU partnership to ensure sub-regional rather than a country-specific approach to not only breaking COVID-19 but to ensuring better preparedness for future shocks and build a shared and holistic recovery post-COVID-19. 

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