The UK will stay the course in Sierra Leone until Ebola is defeated
Justine Greening speech to United Nations (UN) International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York
I’m delighted to be speaking at this important conference.
In the last year, the worst ever outbreak of Ebola wreaked terrible suffering and loss across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In spite of the risks that they faced, we witnessed extraordinary courage and fortitude, from local people in the countries affected, from national Governments, and from volunteers across the world who put their own lives on hold to give others a lifeline.
I am immensely proud of the role that the UK played in supporting the Government of Sierra Leone, building treatment centres, testing labs and training burial workers to get Ebola under control.
As others have already said today, we have made huge progress - but we are not yet at zero.
Recent cases in Liberia show that even when a country reaches zero, we cannot drop our guard.
So the UK will stay the course in Sierra Leone, until Ebola is completely defeated.
But while we’re working towards zero – there’s something else that we’re doing: we’re also looking ahead to Sierra Leone’s long term recovery.
And I believe we are in a strong position. Right from the start, we responded to the challenge of Ebola with incredible pace, ambition and innovation.
And that pace of getting things done – because we had to - that clear sense of urgency, of political will to overcome obstacles, we must bring that to all development, from now on.
And we will rise to Sierra Leone’s development challenge set out today – the challenge to build hospitals, to build schools and to grow businesses, with the same zeal, the same energy and dedication that we had when we took on the challenge of Ebola.
With Sierra Leone, we can’t just go back to business as usual. And I know that President Koroma, whose political leadership I pay tribute to, and the Government of Sierra Leone feel the same.
At the World Bank Spring Meetings in April, President Koroma presented a strong early recovery plan – to which the UK has committed 54 million pounds, approximately 80 million dollars.
That recovery plan sets out two key priorities:
The first is increasing economic development and jobs. By improving roads and ports, and making energy and water more available in Sierra Leone we can really boost the prospects for successful business and increased investment. That is the right priority and today I am pledging 110 million pounds – approximately 170 million dollars - in new resources over the next two years to help deliver Sierra Leone’s priority of jobs and growth.
And we want everyone to benefit from that economic growth, and the wealth that it creates, including the tax that it can generate, improving tax revenue collection – which is vital for Sierra Leone’s development.
So the UK is further pledging up to 35 million pounds – approximately 54 million dollars - to support the Government’s capacity to raise tax revenue, to tackle corruption, and also more broadly to improve the capacities of public institutions.
The second priority of Sierra Leone is making adequate basic services available to all, particularly health, education and water. So in addition to our extra investment in growth and jobs, and on tax capacity, I am also pledging another 95 million pounds – approximately 147 million dollars - for basic services in support of Sierra Leone’s second priority - and to enable Sierra Leone to respond better to new crises.
There is also a vital commitment, which I welcome by Sierra Leone, to address the specific disadvantages and inequality faced by girls and women. No country can develop if it leaves half its population behind. And as it gets its development back on track, the UK will help the Sierra Leone Government to realise this ambition – both in terms of economic opportunities for women and girls, and services, for example closing the gap between girls and boys in school.
In total the UK pledges 240 million pounds – approximately 372 million dollars - over the next two years to Sierra Leone.
Alongside this, we will also continue our commitments to other countries affected by Ebola. We will pledge an additional 6 million pounds – approximately 9.3 million dollars - in new money for Liberia’s health sector over the next two years, bringing our total support to Liberia over the next 2 years to £13.5 million – which is approximately 21 million dollars.
We will also continue our work on regional preparedness. This tackles the risk of Ebola spreading, and learn lessons from the outbreak for the future.
In conclusion, the UK’s commitment to addressing the Ebola crisis is unwavering. Our total commitment to the recovery, including debt relief through the IMF, is now 339.5 million pounds – over half a billion dollars.
But we all need to step up. I hope to see all of the multilateral agencies working in Sierra Leone lead the rest of the international community to get behind and support the Sierra Leone Government’s plan and priorities.
We cannot wipe out the suffering that this disease has inflicted but we can commit ourselves to reaching zero, and we can help build a stronger, more resilient, more prosperous Sierra Leone that is better equipped to tackle disease outbreaks in the future.
That is the right thing to do and, ultimately as so many others have said already today, I believe it’s in all of our interests as well.