His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has shared Sierra Leone’s experience with Ebola, successes with Covid-19 and efforts at creating public health agencies and using early warning systems.
“…we are establishing an effective and efficient approach to service delivery that involves strengthening Primary Health Care as well as improving clinical services at the secondary and tertiary levels. We are using the Life-Stages approach to quality client/patient-centred care,” he said.
He added: “The main lesson for us in Sierra Leone is a clear understanding that Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response are Everybody’s Business. Political leadership, health diplomacy, technical capabilities, active community engagement, flexible funding, and most importantly, speed-of-action, are perhaps the most important success factors for managing an epidemic or pandemic”.
The president went on that those efforts would be complemented by the establishment of a National Public Health Agency, coming on the back of a November 2022 ratification by the Sierra Leone Parliament of the new Public Health Bill.
“The new Public Health Agency will build and strengthen core competencies in surveillance and epidemiology, data and data analytics, laboratory science, and research to answer local and global questions. This would be done while focusing on addressing routine health challenges and honing early warning systems during ‘Quiet’ periods. We will complement those efforts with simulations and exercises to maintain outbreak response competencies,” he explained.
President Julius Maada Bio further noted that though tremendous progress had been made over the years, the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016 in West Africa was still raw in their psyche as a nation, with over 14,000 infections and nearly 4,000 deaths.
“Those lessons learned were on full display before, and at every stage of our response to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone. Even before the first case was detected in my country, I assembled a Presidential-Taskforce that I chaired. I took full responsibility and accountability for the response. The Taskforce included representation of key line-Ministries of my government and civil society. We also maintained strong links with international development partners and the private sector,” he said.
He recalled that those outbreaks had taught his government and country that epidemics and pandemics were not just health issues, but they had a way of affecting all facets of the lives of people with devastating consequences.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in Sierra Leone we have had our own share of epidemics and pandemics. As a nation, we refuse to be defined by these health crises. We believe that what hurt us yesterday, makes us wiser, strengthens our resolve, and makes us more determined to not only build back but build back better,” he concluded.
In another development, President Bio delivered the keynote address to the high-level event launching the first edition of the ‘Education in Africa’ report, released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, and the African Union, on the margins of the Africa Assembly Heads of State and Government.
Adding his voice to the continental education strategy for Africa, the President noted that, while the event hoped to bring a diverse range of voices and perspectives from heads of state and governments, other senior decision-makers and stakeholders from around the continent on the future of education, it was also good for the 2063 Agenda.
“The African Union launched the 2016-2025 Continental Education Strategy to create a new African citizen who would be an effective change agent and a citizen who would help get the continent on the sustainable development track, as envisioned by our 2063 Agenda. Our efforts are, therefore, geared towards teaching fit-for-purpose knowledge, competencies, skills, and promoting the innovation and creativity required to develop Africa’s human capital”.
The resident also called for collaboration among various countries, learning from one another and building on their experiences to tackle similar challenges, adding that addressing learning loss and learning poverty was not just a matter of national and continental concern.
“As President, I co-chaired the Transforming Education Summit convened by the United Nations Secretary-General in New York in September and I also sit as co-chair of the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee convened by UNESCO,” he noted.
He emphasised that at all those levels he had added his voice to a strong global movement to address three critical factors for change to include political commitment, data, and evidence-based policy recommendations, urging that the more they learned from one another’s experiences and the more they collaborated, the better it would be for the children to learn as well.