The Government of Sierra Leone has launched a grant of USD$700,000, committed by the Government of Japan to the country’s programme, ‘Response to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on child-rights and resilience building in Sierra Leone’.
Japan’s contribution will enable UNICEF to support Government in mitigating the immediate and prolonged impact of COVID-19 on the nutritional status and protection of vulnerable children in Sierra Leone, including through undertaking an assessment of the nutrition situation of children under-five and women of reproductive age in the lean season of 2021 to inform an evidence-based, updated COVID-19 nutrition response plan.
“This grant affirms the Government of Japan and UNICEF in the efforts to respond to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on child-rights and resilience building in Sierra Leone especially in the hard to reach area. We, the Government of Japan, have supported the people in Sierra Leone through UNICEF for years. This grant is further a proof of sustained commitment that Japan remains a key partner in Sierra Leone and fights against the global pandemic.” said H.E. Himeno Tsutomu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Sierra Leone.
According to the Sierra Leone Emergency Food Security Monitoring System (2020), COVID-19 travel restrictions and lack of money have resulted in the drastic altering of household livelihoods and incomes, resulting in increased food insecurity.
Across Sierra Leone, 51 per cent of households are unable to access markets, resulting in a 10-percentage point increase in household food insecurity from 53 per cent during 2019 lean season to 63 per cent during 2020 lean season and an 11-percentage point increase of households with poor food consumption from 23 per cent during the lean season of 2019 to 34 per cent during the lean season of 2020.
“Food and Nutrition security is a foundation critical to having a healthy and educated populace especially through the life stage approach where there is a window of opportunity from conception to two years in the first 1000 days. Damage caused by malnutrition during this growth window is perpetuated across the life course,” said Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Austin Demby.
The grant will also go towards improving accessing to gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response system and to ensure that the personnel managing GBV systems have the right capacity and skills to meet the evolving needs of children and their families during the period of a pandemic.
In 2020, the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police registered 4,138 cases (3,425 female; 713 male) of violence against children, with the vast majority (2,532 cases) constituting sexual offences, mostly against girls (2,476 cases).
Moreover, 3,842 cases of domestic violence offences against women, including GBV. Since its inception in April 2020, the ‘116’ toll free hotline for sexual violence has logged 409 cases concerning gender-based violence, including rape and sexual penetration, and other forms of child abuse.
The emergence of COVID-19 has coincided with heightened household stress, lowered household incomes, and decreased access to services, factors which often increase children’s vulnerability to violence, exploitation, and abuse.
“The 116 hotline has become a lifeline for women and girls. It is the first line of response to gender-based violence. Without the free hotline, women and girls in extreme situations would not have an immediate resolve.
With the hotline, it takes a maximum of 48 hours from receiving a call to receiving the first line of free survivor-centred services,” said Deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mr. Buakai Bindi Hindowa.
This grant, which falls under Japan’s Official Development Assistance strategy for Sierra Leone, will see UNICEF and the Government of Sierra Leone and targets to benefit 1,369,150 children under-five (684,575 female and 684,575 male) and 1,842,130 women of reproductive age within the course of this year.
“UNICEF has been supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on violence against children and household poverty as essential components in the pandemic response and recovery,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh.
“Our response in these areas is dependent on support from donors and so we appreciate the Government of Japan’s generous and timely support to the children of Sierra Leone during the time of COVID-19 pandemic.”