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40 ECOWAS Volunteers in Sierra Leone’s health and education sectors by end of April

40 ECOWAS Volunteers in Sierra Leone’s health and education sectors by end of April

A mission from the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme’s (EVP) Regional Office, led by the Director of the ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre in Ouagadougou, was in Sierra Leone from 8th to 12th April to fast-track the deployment of the 40 ECOWAS Volunteers earmarked for the health and education sectors of the country. The team met with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; Ministry of Health and Sanitation; Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Sports, as well as various other stakeholders from the civil society and UNDP/UNV who are technical partners to the Programme.  (Photo: Honourable Deputy Minister 1, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Osmond Hanciles (5th from right in back row) poses with EVP mission and members of the National Coordination Council.)

The head of the mission, Mr. Francis Chuks Njoaguani, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the visit, which he described as ‘encouraging’. “I feel highly encouraged by the reception that we received and now there is greater certainty that ECOWAS Volunteers will be deployed to Sierra Leone in the next 30 days”, he said. According to the EVP’s Regional Coordinator, Mr. Ibrahim P. A. Ouedraogo, the mission was necessary as hopes of deploying volunteers in Sierra Leone before the end of the pilot phase of the Programme were dwindling before the mission’s arrival. “The mission was necessary as it has helped regain the commitment of all the key stakeholders especially the primary beneficiary ministries”, he stressed.

Indeed, ECOWAS requires from the host institution and country, the commitment to provide decent and safe accommodation to the volunteers prior to their deployments. The EVP mission to Sierra Leone sought and obtained that commitment from all the parties and the first batch of 20 volunteers earmarked for the Ministry of Education should arrive in the country by end of April 2013 and the other 20 volunteers destined for the Health sector by first week of May.

The Deputy Minister 1 of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Osmond Hanciles pledged the full commitment of his ministry after clarifying certain grey areas. “We must reassure that we will not fail on the commitment made by our Head of State when Sierra Leone was selected as one of the four lucky countries for the pilot phase of the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme. I must say that I am glad that the requirements on the accommodation sought for ECOWAS Volunteers are the strict minimum and this is not beyond our means. We have agreed on a road map with the EVP team and we take our role seriously”, the Honourable Minister said.

In the same vein, during the delegation’s courtesy call on her, the Honourable Minister of Health, Mrs. Miatta Kargbo stressed the importance of the ECOWAS Volunteers’ contribution to the country’s development plans as a whole, but also to the health sector in particular. “His Excellency, the President of Sierra Leone has a great vision for the health sector. Our focus now is to make health care accessible to the ordinary Sierra Leoneans, and for this, we need qualified health professionals. We are glad that such professional expertise can come to us from within the region through the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme”, she said.

The Honourable Minister further mentioned that wherever possible, the country strengthens the capacity of the existing staff but feels that expertise from the region would only add on innovation. “Bringing in ECOWAS Volunteers may add on innovation and agility to our ways of doing things, as things keep changing. I believe it is the ability to adapt quickly to change that is at the base of the success of the private sector. Therefore, by embracing the innovation that ECOWAS Volunteers will bring into the country, we will all be able to write a success story for the country” – she added.

The mission was also to learn about the urgency of deployment of qualified personnel into the health sector. The expertise sought by Sierra Leone includes nurses, doctors (pediatricians and obstetricians), health financial managers, medical procurement experts and hospital managers. The Ministry provided a list of 137 vacancies it would like filled. The demand for young qualified professionals in the region is high and such programmes as the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme may have greater impact with increased funding.

The EVP team also held a stakeholders’ consultative meeting with the members of the National Coordination Council (NCC) for Sierra Leone, chaired by the Head of the ECOWAS National Unit located in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The NCC, which also includes representatives from the civil society, has the obligation to see to the successful implementation of the Programme in the country. The Deputy Minister 1 of Education attended the meeting, thus further demonstrating government’s commitment to the successful implementation of the programme.

Before departing Sierra Leone, the ECOWAS delegation paid a courtesy call on the Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Alhaji Foday B.L. Mansaray, who hosts the EVP National Coordination Offices for a debriefing session. The Honourable Minister pledged to personally follow up and liaise with his counterpart Ministers who are key to the implementation of the Programme in Sierra Leone. “We cannot overemphasise the importance of such programme to our country and the regions as a whole. I am glad that most issues have been ironed out and that we are set to proceed now with the implementation of the Programme in Sierra Leone”, he assured.

ECOWAS Volunteers are a group of dynamic men and women, from the 15 Member States of ECOWAS, who contribute to development efforts and help consolidate peace and reconstruction in crisis affected-communities. The programme covers four countries for the pilot phase, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. In these countries, volunteerism, particularly youth volunteerism is being used to promote development, peace and regional integration. There are currently 60 volunteers in Guinea and Liberia and 40 more expected in Sierra Leone in May 2013. They commit to serve as volunteers and demonstrate an ability to adapt to different and at times difficult conditions. Most of them are teachers and health workers deployed in locations that have not benefited from such expertise in many years. They are also helping to strengthen the capacities of local organizations, establish and support partnerships between communities, promote a culture of peace, promote gender equality, network and collaborate with other development partners. It is expected that the Programme will eventually be scaled up and expand to cover all ECOWAS Member States


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