Following a two-day workshop on the integration of the National Plan of Action into the National Development Plan, a ceremony to launch the Targeted Review Report on “Health Governance and COVID-19 response” was held on August 12th, 2021 at the Freetown International Convention Centre. As is customary in Sierra Leone, Christian and Muslim prayers were first offered and the ceremony started in earnest. Members of the diplomatic corps, foreign dignitaries from Senegal, Ghana and Kenya, staff from the APRM Continental Secretariat, high-level officials from Sierra Leone, and representatives from APRM member-states attended the ceremony which respected COVID-19 protocols.
The master of ceremonies, H.E Amara Kallon, Deputy Minister of Public and Political Affairs, affirmed at the start that it is time Sierra Leone contributed to rewriting the African narrative. Through the Targeted Review, he asserted, Sierra Leone’s power to fight COVID-19 was revealed. A number of distinguished individuals then took turns to address the audience.
H.E Foday Yumkella, Minister of Public and Political Affairs and APRM Focal Point, expressed his excitement at being present at the launch of the Targeted Review Report in support of the APRM. He praised the APRM Continental Secretariat, the efforts of which, allowed the country to successfully end the review cycle. In his statement, he recalled the genesis of the APRM. Finally, H.E Foday Yumkella asked all Sierra Leoneans and partners to support the health sector.
Mrs. Abigail M. Renner, Chair of the National Governing Council (NGC), said that she was happy about the launch. She indicated that a lot of hard work went into the Targeted Review Report. She thanked stakeholders for their support and pledged to keep the public informed of the content of the Targeted Review Report. She also affirmed that she will endeavour to maintain the partnership with APRM structures to make sure that they aware of progress registered on the implementation of the recommendations of the Targeted Review Report.
Mrs. Janet Mabwa, Senior Coordinator of Targeted Reviews at the APRM Continental Secretariat, represented Prof Maloka, CEO of the APRM Continental Secretariat, and read his statement. She said that the commitment of Sierra Leone to the APRM is an inspiration to everyone and that the country is an example in the containment of COVID-19. Mrs. Mabwa laid emphasis on the fact that the resilience of health systems will be important to the growth of African economies. Indeed, the spread of viruses, if not urgently addressed, can derail Africa’s developmental efforts.
Ambassador Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, Lead APR Panel Member for Sierra Leone, deplored Africa’s lack of access to vaccines in her statement. She said that if swift action is not taken, the continent will be severely challenged by the pandemic. She congratulated H.E Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, on the leadership and commitment he showed to the APRM and the Targeted Review. Pro-active steps were taken in Sierra Leone to minimize the impact of COVID-19 such as the Quick Action Economic Response Programme. Ambassador Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika concluded her statement by saying that Sierra Leone will overcome COVID-19 and remain a shining star since it defeated Ebola.
Professor Ezrah Aharone, Founding Director of the Center for Global Africa (CGA) at Delaware State University, a Historically Black College & University (Sixth Region) and representatives of the CGA traveled to Sierra Leone upon invitation from the Government of Sierra Leone and the CGA’s partner the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to attend the launch of APRM’s Targeted Review on Health Governance and COVID-19 Response in the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Prof. Aharone noted that since Sierra Leone is the first and only nation to complete such an APRM COVID-19 Review, the Report holds great continental and global value in its findings and recommendations, of which the CGA and APRM are now working with Sierra Leone as a pilot country to create Multilateral Models of Excellence that can be scaled and replicated for other African nations to apply.
H.E Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, noted that the Targeted Review was a big achievement. Sierra Leone’s satisfactory management of the pandemic is due to the establishment of a National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NACOVERC), and decentralized structures called District COVID-19 Emergency Response Centres (DICOVERC). A taskforce led by H.E Julius Maada Bio was also put in place. Sierra Leone, H.E Austin Demby said, is committed to supporting African efforts to protect and respond to emergencies.
H.E Dr Francis Kai Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Sierra Leone, said he was elated that H.E Julius Maada Bio submitted himself to a peer-review. The Ministry he heads is conscious of efforts to transform recommendations into policies and is ready to provide requisite resources for the successful implementation of the Targeted Review Report. H.E Dr Francis Kai Kai pleaded for strong coordination between Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and development partners.
H.E Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Vice-President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, welcomed the delegation that was attending the launch to Sierra Leone on behalf of H.E Julius Maada Bio. He thanked the APRM Continental Secretariat for choosing Sierra Leone to undertake a Targeted Review Report on “Health Governance and COVID-19 Response” which outlines recommendations and best practices. He added that pandemics of the nature of COVID-19 test the strength of healthcare delivery. In Sierra Leone, leadership, experience and digitalization have formed the backbone of the response to COVID-19. He was of the view that the country must strengthen healthcare delivery to make sure that future pandemics do not obstruct healthcare. H.E Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh also touched on vaccine equity in his statement. He added his voice to those of African leaders calling for vaccine equity. He affirmed that intellectual property rights should be waived so as to enable Africa to produce vaccines and fight COVID-19.
Following H.E Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh’s key note speech, the Targeted Review Report on “Health Governance and COVID-19 response” of Sierra Leone was launched to much acclamation.
After Dr Charles J. Silver’s, Head of the APRM National Secretariat, short remarks in which he thanked the Targeted Review Field Mission, a short play was performed and group pictures were taken to mark the launch of the Targeted Review Report of Sierra Leone.