President Bio said it was a pleasure to participate in the conference and to collaboratively think about ways to improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans through various interventions in the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.
He said figures had shown that in the past five years, thousands of Sierra Leoneans had died as a result of diarrhoeal diseases, typhoid, dysentery, cholera and other water-borne diseases.
He said his government had prioritised human capital development but emphasised that the nation might not be able to develop its human capital when it is unable to improve public health outcomes for citizens by increasing their access to safe water and sanitation and promoting health behaviours that would minimise the incidence of disease and death.
“The mere premature and preventable deaths of some of our nation’s youngest and brightest makes this unacceptable rate of morbidity an urgent priority. My New Direction has prioritised human capital development. We cannot develop human capital if we do not improve public health outcomes for Sierra Leoneans by increasing their access to safe water and sanitation and promoting health behaviours that will minimise the incidence of disease and death,” he said.
President Bio also acknowledged, with gratitude, the various interventions of development partners in supporting capacity building, water and sanitation sector reform and using innovative approaches to provide water in rural and peri-urban areas. He noted that he was particularly grateful for the impact of WASH interventions and for the retention of young children in schools.
“On behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, I register our profound gratitude for your sundry contributions. I am particularly grateful for the impact of WASH interventions for the retention of our young children in schools. We cannot do this alone. The bilateral and multilateral support we have received from strategic partnerships with organisations and institutions have been transformational,” he stated.
He further disclosed that his government was working on reforming the legal and policy framework of the Water Act that would streamline the governance of the WASH sector and provide an enabling environment for inter-ministry collaboration and the facilitation of engagements with multilateral agencies.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Alpha Tejan Wurie, said the conference was a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to critically assess the status of water and sanitation in the country. He said in order to maintain a proper health delivery service, hospitals and health centres across the country must be provided with functional and running water facilities to address the hygienic needs of patients.
Minister of Water Resources, Dr Jonathan Tengbeh, said the government was determined to provide safe drinking water and improve on the level of sanitation in the country. He said he inherited a sector that lacked sufficient funds and manpower to carry out its mandates. He, however, maintained that they were working very hard to implement sustainable water projects across the country.
Representative from the World Health Organisation (WHO) said: “We are happy for the exercise of political will to provide safe drinking water for the people of this country. To achieve the Sustainable Goal 3, we need to provide accessible and safe drinking water to all citizens. WHO is committed to working with government in achieving this goal.”