From 23rd to 26th July 2020, the Secretary General of the Mano River Union, Ambassador Medina A. Wesseh, ahead of three separate teams left Freetown, to engage stakeholders across twenty (20) strategic crossing points and Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units across the MRU sub region in land Covid 19 border assessment.
The visit covered all the international land borders areas of the districts of Kambia, Kailahun and Pujehun. This initiative is in anticipation of land borders preparations for reopening and is aimed at increasing awareness on COVID 19 within the border communities as well as to engaged the Joint border Chairpersons and Secretaries in targeted border communities on their COVID 19 response mechanaism.
It can be recalled that recently ECOWAS Ministerial Coordination Committee on Transport, Logistics and Trade held a meeting for the harmonization and gradual re-opening of land, air and sea borders for restoring cross border economic activities, especially for movement of humanitarian personnel, medical supplies and equipment as well as essential goods in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is against this background that, the various mission leaders held discussions with the District Council Chairman, District Security Coordinator of the Office of the National Security, District Health Management Team, the District Coordinator of COVID response, the JBSCBU members and several border communities and their counterparts from Guinea and Liberia. The possibilities of establishing a triage at strategic points round the border crossing poings and improving community-based surveillance were at the heart of the discussions.
The challenges associated with the border closure as a result of the pandemic, the anticipated problems associated with border reopening and the possible recommendations in addressing those challenges, and the needs to be provided some level of assistance to them in order to better cope with the reopening of land borders were also discussed.
In each district, MRU delegation as part of its development partnership with the UNDP Country Office in Sierra Leone handed over officially to the District Coordinator of the Office of the National Security and JBSCBU, bundles of facial masks, hand washing kits and set of flyers with the MOH approved messages for the community. It can be recalled that MRU and UNDP have signed an MOU 2019 to work in the areas of development and since the declaration on the fight against Covid 19, several meetings and activities have been jointly organized.
In general, it should be noted that the various districts and borders communities where the Secretary General and her teams visited welcomed this initiative of the MRU, which sees it as an opportunity to renew their commitment to the response against COVID 19. Their commitment has resulted in firm recommendations that will be shared. with UNDP as lead partner of the UN-Country Teams in all four Member States, as well as to the national COVID response centers and ministries of health of the Member States.