International Development Secretary Priti Patel has visited Sierra Leone to see first-hand how the UK is building upon its leadership during the Ebola crisis by helping the country to develop resilient health systems, improve education and increase access to water and electricity.
The visit took place during the first anniversary of the end of the Ebola outbreak and Ms Patel joined survivors and community activists at Port Loko district hospital for a national three minute silence.
Together they honoured the bravery of the thousands of Sierra Leoneans who fought Ebola and remembered all those who sadly lost their lives during the outbreak.
The survivors and activists also explained their experiences of the Ebola crisis and shared their hopes for the future with the International Development Secretary.
The UK led the international response to the country’s Ebola crisis and has committed to supporting the President’s recovery priorities through a 2 year £240 million programme. The programme is helping to improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans, including building resilient health systems, improving education and increasing access to water and electricity.
During her visit Ms Patel called on His Excellency President Koroma at Sierra Leone’s State House, to discuss the continuing partnership between the UK and Sierra Leone.
The International Development Secretary met several members of the Cabinet, including the Ministers of Finance, Health, Education, Energy and Water to discuss the results being delivered through the recovery programme.
Ms Patel said:
I’ve been truly humbled by the strength and resilience of the Sierra Leonean people as they look to the future while recovering from the devastating effects of Ebola.
In Freetown and Port Loko I saw how UK aid saved lives during the outbreak and is now helping to rebuild the country. Our partnership will ensure Sierra Leone emerges stronger from the disaster by creating a more effective and robust health system.
Global Britain is leading the way to ensure that Sierra Leone - and the world - is better equipped to quickly and effectively tackle future health emergencies at source. This is firmly in all our interests.
UK aid is also helping people across the country, especially girls and women, to access economic opportunities and education. This is crucial for sustainable growth and long-term prosperity.
While in Port Loko Ms Patel talked to the head boy and girl of a school in Maforki about how new classrooms funded by UK aid will ease overcrowding and ensure they can continue their education. The UK will improve the quality of education for 1.4 million children in Sierra Leone over the next 5 years.
During a visit to a primary health facility at nearby New Maforki Ms Patel discussed with nurses and midwives how UK support is helping to reduce very high levels of maternal and infant deaths. This partnership with the Sierra Leonean government will see 60,000 additional people have access to family planning services.
As part of the recovery programme UK aid will also help provide 800,000 more people with sustainable access to clean water and sanitation. At Brama village primary school Ms Patel met children and women who are benefitting from a clean and safe water pump and toilets.
In the early recovery period following Ebola, 80% of the 29,400 petty traders UK aid helped get back to work were women. Before leaving central Freetown, the International Development Secretary talked to women market traders about the challenges they face, and also spoke to local businesses and investors about how to foster more economic growth that will create jobs and prosperity in Sierra Leone.