By Foday Moriba Conteh
One of the leading and largest international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, World Vision Sierra Leone is poised to implement one of the biggest WASH projects in the country after signing a WASH Response Project with the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) with support from the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation worth over 2.2 Billion Leones.
This move by World Vision and its partners is geared towards complementing Government’s efforts to provide and improve WASH facilities in the country, with the objective of scaling up preventive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen sanitation and health systems at the community level.
According to a joint Press Release , the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, HEINEKEN Africa Foundation and World Vision -Sierra Leone are working together to support communities in Sierra Leone in the fight against COVID-19.
On the occasion of World Water Week, the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, HEINEKEN Africa Foundation and World Vision Sierra Leone are proud to announce their common commitment to promote lifesaving hygiene education and hand washing facilities in the urgent fight against COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
The release also revealed that in Sierra Leone, 12% of health facilities are using an unimproved water source and 15% of health facilities report that their water is rarely or never available from the source they use, which adds to the challenge of treating patients infected with COVID-19.
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and because it has built a strong expertise on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) since 2007, the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation is committing 5 million euros in the coming year to set up hand washing facilities and provide hygiene information in health centers, markets and community settings in eight sub-Saharan African countries.
Sierra Leone, which is one of the eight countries targeted, bagging a contribution from the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation of 210,625 euros will help World Vision Sierra Leone to focus on informal settlements in Freetown that are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
This project will impact 16,000 people with improved water services and 300,000 people with hygiene promotion to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Speaking during the launch, the dynamic National Director of World Vision Sierra Leone, James Chifwélu, expressed appreciation to SLBL and HAF for the partnership, which he described as not only significant but very timely at the moment as the launch will serve as a direct contribution towards the fight against the COVID- 19 in the country.
James Chifwélu disclosed that World Vision started operations in Sierra Leone in 1996 during the country’s civil war, providing life- saving relief and humanitarian assistances, adding that they are one of the largest international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. He reiterated how they have been conducting relief, development and advocacy activities in their work targeting children, families, and communities in nearly 100 countries to help them realize their full potentials by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
He said World Vision’s Sierra Leone WASH Program spends an average of about $1.5 million yearly, working with 11 dedicated WASH staff. He welcomed the much-needed support from the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation to reinforce the WASH Program in the country
The National Director of World Vision Sierra Leone said since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country they have been partnering with various organizations as part of their support in curtailing the spread of the virus in the country, adding that World Vision has been working closely with community residents where they operate further stating that with this new project that has been signed such will definitely help them to reach more communities in order to save the lives of those in dire need of support in the country.
He also disclosed that they have also sealed an agreement with the Inter-Religious Council in order to bring authorities of the two main religions to work together in order to fight COVID-19 in the country.
James Chifwélu said they have also partnered with the Government of Sierra Leone in many areas geared towards combating COVID-19 in the country, adding that just recently they supported the Ministry of Planning radio program in order to disseminate the correct information about COVID-19.
He maintained that their footprint is seen within the provinces as they operate in Pujehun, Kono, Bonthe, Falaba, Bo, Kambia etc. but said with this partnership with SLBL they will work closely in the western area, stating that, in the past they have been intermittently working in the Western Area as they did during the outbreak of Ebola, Mudslide and now COVID-19.
The National Director said during the lockdowns they worked with the Ministry of Water Resources to support the WASH component in the country.
He assured all that they are committed to work with the set goals as they have already started consultations and they will also work with the Ministries of Water Resources, Health and Sanitation to ensure that they work within their premise in order to reach targeted beneficiaries.
On his part, the Corporate Affairs Manager of Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, Albert Ojo Collier, in his statement, revealed that it is indeed a great honour and privilege to officially unveil and sign the WASH Response Project contract which, he said, is a partnership involving the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation (HAF), Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) and World Vision International to support communities in Sierra Leone to scale up the fight against COVID-19.
He said SLBL and HAF have again taken up the challenge to continue to support the people of Sierra Leone adding how they are very proud to do so as an exemplary corporate citizen (SLBL) that is contributing to the wellbeing of Sierra Leoneans by supporting private sector initiatives of this nature.
Albert Ojo Collier further disclosed that the project is funded by HAF to help reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone, adding that it is a six-month WASH response project worth €210,625 (over 2.2 Billion Leones at the current exchange rate).
“In implementing the project, World Vision will focus on the provision of pure water supply to communities in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mechanized solar-powered boreholes and water trucking services where needed. Freestanding hand-washing stations will be fabricated or procured (such as Veronica buckets, with a tap) and placed at strategic public places and community health centres. Soap and disinfectants will be provided at the hand- washing units in public places, informational and educational materials utilized in sensitizing people living in slums and their community health centers to outline the sanitation and hygiene practices to be carried out by both patients and healthcare workers,” he also revealed.
He said for effective prevention and mitigation, World Vision will work with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to develop, print, and distribute social behavior-change communication materials on COVID-19 and strengthen WASH promotion through community health workers at the household level, also emphasizing key COVID-19 prevention messages with special focus on actions to improve hygiene practices.
Revealing the summary of the project, he said, the partnership has agreed on key performance indicators which are that 16,000 people will be reached to access clean water, 12 water system tap stands with 24 taps will be constructed, 6,000 people will be reached with preventative WASH kits, 300,000 people in informal settlements will directly benefit from educational materials and with 200,000 people who work in the markets as secondary beneficiaries. He described the intervention as timely and supportive to the people of Sierra Leone at this moment when the country is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albert Ojo Collier recalled that prior to this partnership, SLBL donated hand washing and other COVID-19 prevention materials and Maltina Beverage drinks to the Emergency COVID-19 Operations Office then, Members of Parliament in Constituency 114 and 115, City Council Ward Councilors in Wards 404, 405 and 406 in the Wellington, Calaba Town Axis and the Medical and Dental Association costing over 150 Million Leones.
He stated that HAF, in the past, has been providing support to the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited since 2010 by identifying deserving proposals forwarded by various community residents, where the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited is operating, on an annual basis to be supported or funded.
Ojo Collier said, however, due to the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic which has prevented them from continuing to do so now they therefore decided to sign this partnership with an international NGO, as deemed necessary, to focus on the pandemic at hand.
In his address during the launch, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who also doubles as Spokesperson for NACOVERC, Solomon Jamiru Esq, expressed gratitude to SLBL ,HAF and World Vision for partnering together to implement such a project.
He said by estimation the nature of the project will make it possible for timely intervention in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and also in enumerating the impact of COVID-19 in the country.
Solomon Jamiru added that the private sector has a critical role to play towards the development of any nation and that with this support coming from the private sector such symbolizes their commitment in complementing the efforts of Government.
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Rev. Abraham James Sesay-Jones, who was also in attendance during the launch of the project showered praises on both organizations for the timely intervention to support the fight against COVID-19 in the country.
He pleaded with World Vision to target traders in market places disclosing that they must be the major beneficiaries of the project, adding that the markets are the most crowded places and those going there are at risk of contracting the virus.
Giving the vote of thanks, the Communications Manager of World Vision, Edward Renner, expressed appreciation to both organizations for the partnership furthering that he is of the strong conviction that the project will impact the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
He said World Vision has been undertaking life- saving relief and
humanitarian assistance interventions, adding that World Vision- Sierra Leone spends an average of about $1.5 million yearly on its WASH project, working with 11 dedicated WASH staff. He welcomed the much-needed support from the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation to reinforce the WASH Program in the country.