Freetown, 19 November 2020
Your Excellency, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maida Bio, President of Sierra Leone,
National Security Coordinator, Rtd. Lt. General Brima Bureh Sesay,
Director General of the Disaster Management Agency, Rtd. Brig. General Jao Jah Tucker,
World Bank Country Manager, Ms. Gayle Martin,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recent history has shown the vulnerabilities of Sierra Leone to natural disasters. With climate change and environmental degradation, Sierra Leone’s fragility may yet increase. In this regard, I welcome the timeliness of establishing the National Disaster Management Agency, which underscores the unwavering commitment of the Government to safeguard the well-being of all Sierra Leoneans.
The Office of the National Security has performed a pivotal role in coordinating responses to disasters in recent years, including the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, the 2017 mudslide, and numerous flooding incidents in 2019. I welcome that the National Disaster Management Agency would be able to leverage the learnings from these disasters and the accomplishments and institutional expertise of the Office of the National Security, particularly of the Disaster Management Department. On this foundation, I hope that the newly established Agency will be able to accomplish its key role in coordinating Government counterparts and partners, including the United Nations, NGOs, local leaders and other actors to mitigate and respond to disasters effectively. The United Nations stands ready to provide support and to continue building on the effective partnerships with the ONS Disaster Management Department.
Sierra Leone stands out among all countries in the world with 100 percent of its population living in high climate exposed areas, according to a USAID report. Environmental degradation, particularly in the Western Area is also exacerbating natural vulnerability to disasters. It is thus crucial for the National Disaster Management Agency to work in close collaboration with government counterparts, partners, and the United Nations to scale up and strengthen disaster mitigation measures to protect the most vulnerable, ensuring that no one is left behind.
Considering the high risks posed by disasters in Sierra Leone, there is a need to allocate a dedicated budget for disaster mitigation, preparedness and response. Given high levels of poverty, a key success factor of the Agency would be to ensure that relief is provided to the most vulnerable as quickly as possible, adhering to the global standard of support within 72 hours after a disaster occurs.
The United Nations in Sierra Leone stands ready towards building the capacities and capabilities to rapidly and robustly respond to disasters, building skills in information management, coordination, operational readiness and response; in addition to providing life-saving assistance to those most in need. The 2017 landslide response was a testimony of the strong partnership between Government and the United Nations and we look forward to continued partnerships with the National Disaster Management Agency and the Office of National Security.