Special Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Kandeh Yumkella on Sierra Leone’s Post-Ebola Recovery and The Way Forward in Abidjan

More than 200 Sierra Leoneans met on June 28, 2015 at the Cocody City Hall in Abidjan for an open and constructive dialogue on Sierra Leone’s post-ebola recovery efforts and the way forward. Jointly organized by the Sierra Leonean Community in Côte d’Ivoire and members of the Sierra LeoneanAssociation at the African Development Bank, the organizers of the event selected the highly distinguished Dr. Kandeh Yumkella as its keynote speaker
 
Dr. Yumkella, who was an official guest of the Ivorian Government, invited to launch the West African Energy Leaders Group under the auspices of His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, delivered a spontaneousspeech, mainly in Krio, so that all Sierra Leoneans present at the meeting could clearly understand and appreciate his message. He started by describing the ebola outbreak as one of the most catastrophic events that has devastated the country, just like the rebel war. He indicated that it is the biggest and the longest outbreak. Previous out breaks in Gabon, Uganda, and Zaire occurred intermittently and claimed, at worst, only a few hundreds of victims and lasted for a few weeks. But this recent outbreak in the three Mano River Union countries infected more than 23,000 individuals and over 10,000 of the victims dying.

Dr. Yumkella noted that in Sierra Leone, 11 medical doctors and 37 nurses were among the dead. The outbreak that reportedly began in Guinea in December 2013, spread to Liberia and then Sierra Leone and continued up to the present. The outbreakhas kept more than 1 million children out of school in Sierra Leone and because of the fear of going to hospitals, care for other diseases was neglected. The gains made in healthcare delivery were reversed with respect to the other diseases. Infant mortality rate increased as a result of the outbreak. 
 
He revealed that even in the face of such devastation, he was in Sierra Leone, with his people. He was in Sierra Leone in October 2014 during the peak of the outbreak, and again in March and April this year. Following the town hall event and the launch of the West African Energy Leaders Group in Abidjan, he was going to Sierra Leone, to check on progress and respond to various engagements, including serving as the keynote speaker for the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce on the "Private Sector Post-Ebola Recovery Conference" on July 2, 2015 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sustainable Energy for All opined that it is welcome news to hear that the current Ebola outbreak is rapidly on the wane. He suggested that there are three major lessons to be drawn from this catastrophe that befell our country:
 
First, many people, especially medical professionals were ready and willing to help when the outbreak occurred. In the process, a lot of them died, demonstrating a state of selflessness where they gave up their own lives in order to save others.
 
Second, external financial and technicalassistance are indispensable to put health indices on the right track. He buttressed the point by citing the 3,000 troops the United States had to send to Liberia and the 750 others the United Kingdom had to send to Sierra Leone. He debunked the fallacy that it is common sense that created book learning, by emphatically stating that no country can develop and be transformed without relying on educated professionals with the requisite expertise.
 
Third, external resource mobilization efforts matter. He stated that former President Tejan Kabbah who ended the rebel war, enjoyed a lot of goodwill from the international community and was able to do a lot for the country. In the same way, President Alassane Ouattara also enjoys a lot of support from the international community because of his track record and that is why even though Côte d’Ivoire is a post-conflict country, tremendous progress has been achieved in 3 years.

With regard to the way forward for Sierra Leone, Dr. Yumkella proposed that Sierra Leone needs to be prepared for any new outbreaks. He asked whether as a country, we have learnt any lessons following the Ebola outbreak, and whether all funds received were used judiciously in preparation for any new outbreaks.
 
The knowledgeable UN energy expert went on to reveal that of the 3 countries worst affected by Ebola, Sierra Leone took the biggest blow. The economy shrank as a result of the Ebola outbreak, but also as a result of the sudden fall in the demand for iron-ore on the world market. An economy that was projected to be the fastest growing in Africa, by the beginning of 2014, with a potential growth rate 13 %, attained only7% for the same period. According to the World Bank, Sierra Leone lost more revenues than the two other worst hit countries. Sierra Leone lost US $1.4 billion,whereas Liberia lost US $585 million and Guinea, US $240 million.
 
Dr. Yumkella disclosed that a joint donors’ conference will be organized next month in New York, but so far, US $8 billion has been estimated to finance the recovery effort. He called on all Sierra Leoneans in Côte d’Ivoireto pay very close attention on the outcome of this donor conference so that they may be in the right position to hold authorities accountable for the post-ebola recovery effort.

The town hall meeting was chaired by Dr. Samuel H. Pieh of the United States Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire. Dr. Athanasius Coker, President of the Sierra Leone Association at the African Development Bank delivered the welcome remarks. Mr.Daniel Musa, President of the Sierra Leonean Community in Côte d’Ivoire delivered the vote of thanks. 
 
To grace the occasion, a reception was subsequently held with the international community in Côte d’Ivoire, with Dr. Yumkella as the honored guest.