Opening Address by His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma at the EU Ebola Conference

Brussels, Mar. 4, 2015 (SLENA) – We are honoured to be here to chart ways forward on the current Ebola Outbreak in our countries. The EU has always been a great promoter of its core value of social solidarity and human advancement. Ebola tested the durability of these values, but the EU and its member states, including the United Kingdom showed great commitment to these values by supporting our countries to tackle this virus. We deeply appreciate your commitments.

prezoPresident Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma delivering his address at the opening ceremony

Victory against the virus is in sight, but we must guard against complacency. There would not be total victory until we get to a resilient zero in the three worst affected countries. We are too close to each other; our region is about five hours away from the EU. Outbreaks of viral diseases, from Ebola to swine flu, Marburg, and bird flu and others would be a challenge our generation of humans would have to contend with. And we must be ever ready to aggressively combat these outbreaks. The greatest fortress against these outbreaks is not closed borders; but greater coordination and strengthening of specific health interventions in countries vulnerable to specific types of viral outbreaks. Our generation must be ever prepared for these outbreaks in line with this that we call on your support for the coordinating structures put forward in our common Mano River Union Position Paper and all other measures therein.

In Sierra Leone, over 8,300 people have been infected by the virus, and over 3,100 lives lost. 1,760,000 have not gone to school for the past six months, and 280,000 persons have been made food insecure. Ebola has ravaged our health and education sectors and pushed our economy, hailed in 2013 as the second fastest growing in the world into recession. Government revenues are drying up even as expenditure to combat the disease and its effects are rising.

If we are to ensure a resilient recovery from Ebola, we have to respond to the many ways this disease has made the country vulnerable. We need to deliver social services more effectively than we have before, and we must do so urgently.

It is in line with this that in Sierra Leone, we are drawing up a New Social Services Delivery Pact. The Pact emphasizes delivering on four major priority sectors- first, health; second education; third, social protection; and fourth sustaining service delivery through expanding government’s fiscal space, and revamping the private sector.

We call on the EU and its member states to support the plans we have set forth to revamp these priority sectors of our New Social Services Delivering Pact. We propose support for the creation of fiscal spaces in the form of debt relief grants and concessionary loans; we also propose support to revamp our private sector, which has been at the centre of my country’s remarkable growth. Support the recovery of our health, education and economic sector would ensure sustainability of our efforts to meet future outbreaks and deal with the sad consequences of this present one. Once again, we deeply appreciate the EU’s support to our countries during these challenging times.

I thank you for your attention.

CREDIT COCORIOKO