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Three Irish aid agencies combat COVID-19 in Sierra Leone

By Ann Marie Foley - 04 August, 2020

Three of Ireland’s best-known aid agencies are working together to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.

Concern Worldwide, Trócaire and GOAL Global have funding of €1.5 million to help the country, which was devastated by Ebola between 2014 and 2016 and has now seen the spread of COVID-19 to all of its 16 districts. The funding is from Irish Aid and the EU, the ‘Team Europe’ initiative.

The Embassy of Ireland was present to officially launch the ‘Team Europe’ initiative last week, and Ambassador of Ireland Lesley Ní Bhriain said: “Concern, Trócaire and GOAL are well placed to implement this essential response work in Sierra Leone, which will help around 400,000 people. All three Irish agencies have extensive experience responding to global emergencies and their experience in tackling Ebola has been particularly beneficial in responding to COVID-19.”

The Embassy explained that local organisations will be at the centre of implementing the plan, which is aimed at empowering communities to protect themselves and prevent further spreading of the virus.

The people of Sierra Leone have been suffering from both the health and economic effects of COVID-19, which has spread all over the country with more than 1,700 cases confirmed so far. Sierra Leone, which has a population of just under 8 million, is described as having a ‘fragile’ health system and many poor communities. This is where the Irish agencies will concentrate.

In one programme, led by Concern, funded by Irish Aid and implemented with Trócaire and GOAL, urban and rural communities will receive training on prevention and control of the virus, as well as hand-washing materials. It will also support the local government’s COVID-19 communications and messaging. Families will be helped with quarantine, as will community care centres dealing with asymptomatic and mild cases of COVID-19. The agencies will also help with the longer-term impacts of COVID-19, such as food security and helping people earn a living, as well as tackling increasing levels of gender-based violence.

Another programme led by Trócaire and funded by the EU will be delivered in two of Sierra Leone’s poorest districts, Karene and Falaba, with hygiene items (including soap, sanitisers, and face masks) and support for people in quarantine. It will also focus on supporting the food security and livelihoods of those affected by the secondary impacts of COVID-19.

COVID-19 prevention in Sierra Leone. Photo: Jonathan Bundu/Trócaire

Trócaire works through its local NGO partners: Action for Advocacy and Development (AAD-SL), Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation (KADDRO), and Social Enterprise Development Foundation (SEND).

Separately this week, GOAL called for a community-centred, integrated approach in the international response to COVID-19, urging the international community to work together to prevent the loss of life and livelihoods.

GOAL is asking Ireland to maintain its existing investment to overseas development assistance by protecting the current budget levels and making progress towards spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas aid. Ireland should continue to ensure its overseas aid programme is of a high quality and is poverty-focused, grant-based and un-tied, to deliver on both the Sustainable Development Goals and Ireland’s International Development Policy ‘A Better World’, according to the charity.

GOAL also called on all EU donor countries to continue their efforts to provide steady overseas development assistance.

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