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Sierra Leone: Humanitarian Situation Report, Mar-Apr 2003

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Situation Report
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Posted
Originally published


POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS
Sierra Leone Celebrates 42nd Independence Anniversary

On the 28th of April, Sierra Leone celebrated its 42nd Independence Anniversary from Britain. During his address to the nation, President Kabbah congratulated Sierra Leoneans for a year of peace. The President pointed to progress over the past year in rebuilding the security forces, in addressing impunity and promoting reconciliation, in holding national and chieftaincy elections, and restoring the economy. But the bulk of the president's speech was addressed to the nation's youth. ""We aim to create a level playing field for youths in Sierra Leone to achieve self-realisation and make their contribution as responsible citizens to the development of their country", the President said in his speech.

Special Court indicts eight individuals

On March 10 Sierra Leone's Special Court indicted seven persons accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity, war crimes and related offences committed in Sierra Leone. Four former RUF rebels; battlefield commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, interim leader Issa Hassan Sesay, former commander Morris Kallon alias Bilai Karim; two members of the former AFRC junta, junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma and Alex Tamba Brima alias Gullit; and a senior government minister, Minister of Internal Affairs Sam Hinga Norman were among those indicted.

Five were taken into the court's custody the same day, and warrants were issued for the arrest of two others- parliamentarian and former AFRC junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, and former RUF battlefield commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie. On 16 April, the Special Court also indicted former RUF commander Augustine Gbao, who is in the custody of the Court. The court hearings will be held in accordance with Rule 61 of the Special Court's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which provides that an indicted individual shall be brought before a judge and charged as quickly as possible, that he be given the right to counsel, and that he be called upon to enter a plea.

TRC public hearings

The TRC began its public hearings phase on 14 April after collecting some 7,100 statements from victims, perpetrators and witnesses to atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's civil war. Between mid-April and mid-July, the TRC will hold hearings in each of the country's twelve districts and the Western Area and hear the stories of about 700 victims and perpetrators. The TRC will also hold, in addition to individual hearings, thematic hearings, event specific hearings and institutional hearings. At the launching of the TRC hearings, President Kabbah said that "The most important purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is its therapeutic contribution to the entire peace process and to the search for lasting national reconciliation."

TRC secures funds

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has received $ 2.2 million out of a total of $3.7 million in pledges made at a meeting in Geneva with international donors. The commission was represented by a delegation led by TRC chairman Bishop Joseph Humper. The meeting was held at the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and was attended by donors representing the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands.

SECURITY HIGHLIGHTS

Gradual withdrawal of UN troops to continue

In its 17th Report on the activities of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), presented to the Security Council on 21 March, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended a six-month extension of its mandate, noting that the country still is not able to maintain security without UN help. Progress however enables the continuation of the gradual withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers. "Developments over recent months have proved the prudence of pursuing a gradual draw down of the Mission," says Mr. Annan in his report. The Secretary-General expressed concern at the continued existence of the Civil Defence Force structure and said this "may undermine not only the credibility of the demobilization process, but also the long-term stability of the country." In addition, he recognized that the commencement of the indictments by the Special Court could carry considerable security challenges. The Security Council passed a resolution extending the mandate of UNAMSIL and requesting it to continue its draw down, guided by an evaluation of the security situation and the capacity and ability of the Sierra Leonean security sector to take responsibility for internal and external security. The resolution also calls on States, international organizations and NGOs to continue to support the National Recovery Strategy.

British Gurkha soldiers leave Sierra Leone

The 300 visiting British Gurkha soldiers and support troops, who came in last month to demonstrate Britain's support to Sierra Leone have left the country. Officially, the troops were sent to provide an over-the-horizon force capability to Sierra Leone, against a background of heightened security concerns after an alleged coup attempt in January and worries about a spill over of the Liberian conflict. During their month-long stay, the visiting troops conducted joint exercises with Sierra Leone's military, which is undergoing training by the British-led International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT). British support troops from the Joint Task Force also provided non-military assistance as well.

DONOR UPDATE

Development Partners Meeting

As a follow-up to the Consultative Group (CG) meeting in November 2002, the Vice-President, Mr. Solomon Berewa chaired, on 20 March 2003, the first meeting of the Sierra Leone Development Partnership Committee (DEPACO) which brought together, key members of the Government, 8 resident and non-resident bilateral donors, the UN, the WB, the EU, the ADB as well as representatives from national and international NGOs. The Government and its partners jointly reviewed progress and challenges towards achieving the benchmarks set out in the "Framework for Peace, Recovery and Development", agreed at the CG meeting. The meeting also discussed progress made towards the completion of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), the setting up of development partnership committee (DEPACO) and a development assistance coordination office (DACO) as well as various funding channels for development assistance.

Sierra Leone and USA sign an agreement on debt relief

The Finance Minister and U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone signed an agreement, setting forth the conditions under which the U.S. government would forgive debt payments falling dues during a three-year "interim period" from 1 October 2001 and 30 September 2004 on obligations contracted before 20 June 1999. The Sierra Leone government would have to implement its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) for at least one year. The agreement will mean a savings for Sierra Leone of $11 million during the interim period, with an eventual total of $67 million to be written off.

World Bank approves loan

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $35 million IDA loan to Sierra Leone to support the government's National Social Action Project (NSAP), a programme intended to assist war-affected communities to restore infrastructure and services and to build capacity for collective action. The loan is repayable over 40 years with a ten-year grace period. According to a bank statement, the project consists of three components: a community-driven programme to assist in the restoration of social and economic infrastructure under which the local community will come together to select, implement and maintain small-scale projects; a project to rehabilitate chiefdom and feeder roads and other infrastructure through a public works programme which will employ demobilized soldiers, unemployed youths and members of vulnerable groups, and a project to support capacity-building for communities, chiefdoms and district authorities.

IMF approves a waiver

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Executive Board has granted Sierra Leone a waiver of performance criteria which will allow the government to draw immediately SDR 14 million (about $19 million) from a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement set up in September 2001. SDR, or Special Drawing Rights, is defined as an artificial currency unit based on a basket of national currencies. So far, Sierra Leone has drawn SDR 74.84 million ($102 million) of the 130.84 million ($179 million) available under the arrangement.

NRC continues to meet in the districts

The National Recovery Committee, chaired by the Vice President, continued to hold monthly meetings in the district capitals. During the reporting period, meetings were held in Port Loko, Bo, and Kailahun with the District Recovery Committees and communities. The purposes of the meetings were to highlight the major progress and achievements in each district, critical challenges and gaps and recommendations for action. They also aim at giving an impetus to the work of the DRCs, facilitate consistency of policies and operational practices and monitor progress made towards achieving the NRS Benchmarks.

SECTORAL HIGHLIGHTS

AGRICULTURE

Crop survey

The 2002 chiefdom vulnerability and crop survey/Baseline survey undertaken in the sector has identified between 130,000 to 140,000 vulnerable farm families in 150 chiefdoms throughout the country. Over 75% of the extremely and highly vulnerable chiefdoms identified are in the east of the country (Kono, Kenema and Kailahun Districts).

FAO and agencies in the sector have so far received support/pledges for less than 20% of the vulnerable caseload in the sector. Majority of the newly resettling farmers especially in the highly vulnerable chiefdoms in the east are therefore at the risk of not farming during the current main cropping season due to lack of inputs. This will have a negative effect on the overall food security situation in the country at large and the household food security of the resettling farm families.

Funding situation in the sector is yet very poor as most agencies are not sure of getting any emergency support this cropping season.

Special Programme for Food Security

On the recovery side, the Director General of FAO has approved the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) for Sierra Leone. The Programme, which will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, seeks to improve food security and livelihoods among rural poor through farmer participation and use of improved production technologies that will remove the bottlenecks to increased production. During the implementation of the Programme, greater importance will be assigned to small scale/rural families as beneficiaries of the programme.

SPFS will be implemented in 3 successive phases:

i) a preparatory phase to raise awareness amongst stakeholders, launch initial capacity building activities, develop training curricula and begin training of master trainers

ii) consolidation phase to start up community based extension activities in all districts and

iii) a scaling up phase to enable 100,000 farmers to directly participate in the programme within five years.

The major component of the preparatory phase that became operational in January 2003, involves the promotion of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) where farmers will be engaged in practical learning processes expected to contribute to technical innovation and self-reliance. The implementation strategies include

  • Organizing the farmers into small groups at chiefdom, section, or village levels for the establishment of their own mechanism for the reception and provision of resources,

  • training of participating farmers (men women and youths) and

  • generation of appropriate technologies

Prior to the commencement of the preparatory phase, a team comprising the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Paramount Chief, National Extension Coordinator and NaCSA representative went on a Study Tour of SPFS and FFS sites in Uganda and Ghana to build on those countries' knowledge.

Seed Fair

In March CRS held seed fairs, benefiting a total of 500 farm families in Kabala town and Kamadu Sokrala in Koinadugu district. A number of organizations including CES, CCF, PADI, World Vision, NaCSA, the MAF&FS, local government, UNAMSIL and local opinion leaders observed and participated in these fairs to learn about the methodology. The agriculture sector completed data collection for the 2002 Chiefdom Vulnerability Assessment, as well as for the Food Security Assessment, both in Koinadugu district. CRS also undertook a needs assessment, identification and selection of sections and communities for 2003 agricultural support. CRS provided ongoing supervision and support to its partner, SJFAP, on its poultry project and on a new agriculture project in Port Loko district. The agriculture sector also worked on the TAP proposal as well as other agricultural interventions for 2003. At an agency level the agriculture team concentrated on moving forward with its strategy paper on agriculture.

CHILD PROTECTION

Assistance for former child excombatants

The Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children's Affairs in collaboration with UNICEF, UNHCR and SC-UK are providing assistance to former child combatants who have crossed over from Liberia into Sierra Leone. So far, eighteen (18) of the 259 ex-combatants registered have been certified as children.

USAID visits CPP in Kailahun and Kono

A two-man USAID delegation accompanied by UNICEF recently visited child protection programmes (CPPs) in Kailahun and Kono Districts. The delegation met with members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWCs) and Children's Clubs where they were provided with an overview of the CPPs in the districts. The mission visited the COOPI drop in centre and the IRC skills training centre where they witnessed skills training in weaving craftworks, baking and agriculture and stopped over at the Kailahun Government hospital.

Sexual Assaults

MSWGCA in collaboration with UNICEF and other child protection agencies (CPAs) recently launched a Sexual Assault Referral Centre known as 'Rainbow Centre', at the Princess Christian Maternity hospital. Services offered at the centre include medical examination and treatment, counselling and legal aid for victims of rape or sexual assault. Services are offered free of charge. The Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children's Affairs officially inaugurated the centre.

TOT workshop on sexual violence

A one-day TOT workshop on Sexual Violence has been organised by the Training Working Group of the Co-ordinating Committee on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse with support from UNICEF. The purpose of the training was to equip a team of trainers to provide relevant technical support to NGOs and UN agencies. The topics covered included Human Rights, Gender based Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, the Code of Conduct and Standards of Accountability. There were a total of 9 participants from UNICEF, UNHCR, UN OCHA, WFP, IRC, NRC and Oxfam. At the end of the workshop each participant developed a training plan. The training was facilitated by IRC.

Alternative care

UNICEF has completed a study on alternative care in Kenema and Bo Districts to assess at field level what form of alternative care has been of greatest benefit to the children. Issues addressed included group homes, foster care placements, apprenticeship and independent living and lessons learnt. Agencies involved in the study were IRC Kenema and Bo, Christian Brothers Bo, the Ben Hirsch Child Care Center Kenema, the Ministry of Welfare Genders and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA) in Bo and Kenema, Caritas Kenema and various apprenticeship outlets and foster homes. Interviewees included children, caregivers and skill trainers from various centres.

Repatriation of refugee children from Guinea

UNICEF formed part of a recent mission to Conakry comprising delegates from the Ministry for Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affair's, (MSWGCA), IRC, SC (UK), and COOPI. The purpose of the visit was to have a meeting with the agencies involved in the care, protection and repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea namely the Ministry for Children, UNICEF, UNHCR, IRC and ICRC to work out modalities for the on going repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugee children.

Community base reintegration programmes in Kailahun

Contracts have been signed with IRC, SC-UK, NRC and Caritas Kenema for the provision of community based reintegration programmes (skills training, family tracing and reunification and CEIP) in Kailahun, Kono and Kenema Districts.

EDUCATION

UNICEF Provides Support for MEST

UNICEF provided technical support to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) for the development of a strategic Plan for the Non Formal Primary Education (NFPE programme). The idea is to develop a systematic approach to the programme, based on a careful analysis of gaps in access, quality and scope of NFPE related activities being implemented by various service providers. A questionnaire has now been developed to collect baseline information.

UNICEF Supports Inter- agency Workshop in Education

UNICEF supported a two-day inter-agency workshop in Kenema for partners in the education sector. The workshop focused on intervention strategies and mechanisms for inter-agency collaboration and coordination at district level. At the end of the workshop the following were established; a district data base on the educational sector, an inter-agency coordination forum and a MEST led District Education Management Team comprising of the district Inspectorate, and representatives from Parastatals, Pressure Groups, NGOs and Local Council authorities. The workshop was part of MEST's capacity building and decentralization efforts.

PLAN S L Trains 200 Heads and Deputy Head Teachers

PLAN Sierra Leone has employed the UNICEF initiated Teacher Development Initiative (TDI) to train 200 Head and deputy Head teachers from 100 schools in four chiefdoms in the Bombali District. Meanwhile proposals, which have been submitted, to UNICEF by Kono and Kambia DEOs for monitoring the on-going TDI process in these Districts are under review.

UNICEF Donates 6 Toyota Hilux to MEST

As part of its capacity building support to MEST in the co-ordination, supervision and monitoring of education programmes in Sierra Leone, UNICEF donated six Toyota Hilux vehicles to the Ministry. The District Education Management Teams in Port Loko, Kambia and Kono will use three of these, while the others will be used for administrative purposes. Funds for this project were provided by Netherlands and Norway. Mean while, discussions have been held with the Kenema District Education Management Team on issues concerning quality teaching, effective co-ordination and supervision and monitoring of education programmes within the district. Gaps in the area of data collection, policy formulation and co-ordination were highlighted. A district education sub committee has been formed to address the issue. Similar issues were also addressed with the team in Kambia.

NRC Completes furniture for schools in Kambia

The Norwegian Refugee Council has completed 135 desks and chairs for two newly rehabilitated schools in Kambia, with funds from UNICEF. This adds to the previous set of 105 desks and chairs, also provided by UNICEF. More than 400 children in the two schools will benefit from this intervention.

Orientation Programmes for School Inspectors and Supervisors

UNICEF conducted an orientation programme (19th - 20 March) for Inspectors and supervisors of schools and head teachers in the Bombali and Koinadugu Districts on the provision and strengthening of education under the Complimentary Rapid Education Programme for Primary Schools (CREPS). A work plan for the next three months was developed for monitoring and supervision as well as re-training of teachers in each of the districts. Other major issues discussed were ownership of the programme and problems relating to its implementation and supervision at all levels. A critical problem highlighted by the head teachers is the delay in the payment of the teachers' salaries, which is supposed to be provided by MEST.

MoH, WFP and UNICEF donate Iron Foliate Tablets

The Ministries of Health and Education, WFP and UNICE agreed on modalities to distribute iron foliate tablets, targeting girls in schools in the eastern province. Head teachers and community teacher associations would serve as community animators and ensure the distribution of the drugs to the targeted group. The programme commenced in 94 schools in April. This was followed with a sensitization on de-worming and anemia preventive treatment.

Catholic Education Office Identified for Schools Rehabilitation

The Catholic Education Offices of Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni have been identified as major partners for school rehabilitation/reconstruction, staff housing, etc. to be funded by the Rehabilitation of Basic Education Project (REBEP) of the MEST (a World Bank-funded project). CRS/SL's assistance will be in the form of capacity building of the Catholic Education Offices, technical assistance when needed and monitoring of the REBEP Project. The education unit is also monitoring the use of school materials donated to Impere Secondary School and Serabu Vocational Secondary School.

Baseline survey

WFP, in collaboration with The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology completed a baseline survey of twenty selected schools in the Kailahun district.

FOOD AID

WFP aid

WFP supported approximately 230,000 beneficiaries countrywide (11,4750 females) with nearly 2,000 MT of assorted food commodities. WFP and the members of the Committee on Food Aid agreed to the 2 month + 2 month ration for resettling Sierra Leonean returnees. The revised ration is as follows (12.5 kg cereals; 3.125 kg pulses; .915 kg oil) * 2 months. The returnee ration will allow for bulk distribution (for bulgur wheat and veg oil) in consideration of the limited number of distribution sites and transport of the commodities by the beneficiaries to their respective homes.

Refugee support

Support for seven refugee camps continued in Moyamba, Kenema and Bo districts. The average caseload for the month of April was approximately 52,000. Supplementary Feeding programmes were also maintained in all camps except Tobanda and Taiama, for which WFP must secure a medical NGO partners to implement the SFP.

Training Workshop on Food Security

In preparation for a national food security, health and nutrition survey, UNICEF/ WFP in collaboration and NGOs on ground conducted a 9-day training on Food security, Health and Nutrition for 75 participants in Freetown. The training lasted for 3 days. The objective of the training was to prepare the participants for data collection, sampling and survey methodology. Food security, Health and Nutrition and community questionnaires were reviewed and used for the training. The pre-testing of these questionnaires and practical weighing of the children were carried out in Adonkia and Lakka villages

Food Security Assessment for Three Districts

Rural Livelihood (Food) Security Assessment: Food Security assessment conducted in three districts (Bombali, Tonkolili and Moyamba) in a total of 03 weeks time. This period includes Training and actual assessment. CARE had one team per district with one MOH personnel in each team. Each team visited 11 to 13 villages and collected Rural Livelihood (Food) Security Data to represent for each district. All the data collected and returned to WFP for the data analysis. CARE has also provided staff contribution to input collected data in WFP office in Freetown.

During the two weeks of assessment period, staff in the field worked very hard to move from one village to other. In many occasions, staff members had to walk for 07 to 10 miles and in other occasions we had to cross-rivers for at least 05 villages. Also, the team worked as road engineers to fix bridges to gain the access to reach the villages. Nutritional assessment was part of the assessment.

HEALTH

Training for PBUs in Kambia and Port Loko

In collaboration with MSF-Holland and Community Programme for Women (CPW), a local community - based organization, WFP conducted training for 31 Public Health Unit (PHU) personnel in the ten newly approved PHUs in Kambia and Port Loko districts. Training topics for these personnel drawn from the Ministry of Health included food groups, malnutrition, warehouse management, reporting and standards of accountability.

UNICEF Provides Generator for PHUs in Kono, Kambia and Bombali Districts

As part of it's continued support to routine EPI, UNICEF provided three 17-kva generators to Kono, Kambia and Bombali Districts for the maintenance of cold chain in the district cold room where vaccines are stored for distribution to the PHUs. Also, UNICEF in collaboration with DHMT/MoHS in Koinadugu conducted a four-day refresher training for 30 health staff representing the various health facilities in the district. The knowledge and skills acquired will contribute to improving the quality of immunisation services in PHUs. Besides, UNICEF in collaboration with the District Health Management Teams conducted an EPI refresher training and integration of Vitamin A in the health services of Bombali and Pujehun Districts respectively. Sixty health workers (MCH Aides and vaccinators) participated in the workshop. Participants were provided with knowledge and skills in immunisation techniques, vitamin A supplementation and storage, temperature reading and recording, vaccine storage, early reporting strategies and the introduction of tetanus toxoid in schools for girls, 15 years and above. The training also looked at the introduction of routine vitamin A supplementation in children 6-59 months and postpartum hemorrhage in women within six weeks after delivery. The participants will serve as trainers in their respective districts.

Growth monitoring and promotion

UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) to conduct growth monitoring and promotion (GMP) in 20 villages in the Kenema District. Women in the local communities have been trained to conduct GMP in their catchment areas and to train additional women. The aim is to have a team of 30 GMP volunteers in each community.

Lassa Fever in Refugee Camps

Reports from a variety of sources suggest a worsening of the lassa fever situation with severe cases observed in hitherto non hyper-endemic areas for lassa. Since the alarm, MOHS & WHO held a number of consultations, culminating in a meeting of stakeholders on 10 March 2003, convened by the MOHS. The meeting agreed on a plan of action covering surveillance, Training diagnosis and case management, IEC, prevention and control (including rodent control) and referral system.

An assessment mission's findings suggest a cumulative total of 80 suspected cases of lassa fever, which is 6 times over the figure provided by Merlin and UNHCR. The results therefore confirm that three additional foci for lassa fever hyper-endemicity have been established in three refugee camps and most likely among the local communities as well, outside the traditional lassa fever belt. Anecdotal information from the 3 camps also confirms the existence of large populations of the mastomys rodent in the affected areas. The bushy surroundings in the camps, the less than adequate food and water storage facilities, compounded by overcrowding and poor personal and environmental sanitation, provide the determinants that could lead to a rapid worsening of the lassa fever situation. While a few health staff in the affected areas have some knowledge about lassa fever, very few appreciate the importance of observing universal and barrier nursing precautions.

Prevention and Management of diarrhea

In Kenema district CRS continues to provide administrative support to the Kenema Diocesan health Care Office (KDHCO) in collaboration with the Kenema DHMT. CRS sponsored the training of 200 BFV and 50 TBAs from various communities in the KDHCO operational chiefdoms of Dama, Lower Bambara and Simbaru. These CHWs received a comprehensive training regarding the prevention and management of diarrhea at community level. CRS, KDHCO and the DHMT Kenema will be monitoring, supervising and reporting of these volunteers and their activities.

TBAs

CRS in partnership with Caritas Makeni in Bombali and in collaboration with the MoHS also trained 200 Blue Flag Volunteers and 50 TBAs in communities in the Chiefdoms of Briwa and Safroko. CRS, the DHMT Makeni and Caritas Makeni will assist in the supervision and monitoring of these CHW's.

MCH Posts Constructed

Construction of five MCH posts in Kailahun District in the Chiefdoms of Njaluahun, Jawi, Peje West, Yawei, and Upper Bambara continued in March.

MINING AND RECONSTRUCTION

The Coalition on the Diamond Area Community Development Fund has completed an assessment of 39 DACDF beneficiary chiefdoms in the Eastern and Southern chiefdoms in the country. The assessment report was compiled by CRS and sent to the Ministry of Mineral Resources.

An assessment on the impact of past rutile rehabilitation efforts on local populations of the mining area has been completed by African Technology Policy Studies and the report is now available. CRS staff met with ATPS to discuss key issues arising from this report and next steps in terms of advocacy.

CRS peace building staff met with their counterparts from CARITAS to discuss and give technical support to a proposal on community peace building and reconstruction.

HIV and AIDS

Life Skills Training

A national steering committee on life skills comprising staff of the MEST, MYS, SHARP and international and local NGOs, has been formed to facilitate the development of life skills initiative in schools and other youth institution. As a first step, MEST in collaboration with UNICEF organised a three-day life skills training for 14 facilitators from SHARP, MEST, Ministry of Youths and Sports (MYS) and Ministry of Development and Economic Planning (MODEP). The training was part of the process of adapting a basic life skill teaching material 'Antie Stella' initially developed in Zambia, into schools in Sierra Leone. These facilitators are expected to conduct and record focus group discussion with youths, the results of which will be used to review and adapt the teaching materials. The training was facilitated by CARE international.

Knowledge Assessment on HIV and AIDS

An assessment mission on knowledge and prevention of HIV and AIDS was recently conducted in Kenema, Kailahun and Bo district and partners were encouraged to establish structures to co-ordinate HIV and AIDS prevention initiatives in their districts. In this regard, an HIV and AIDS co-ordination forum has been established in Daru with SC-UK as the interim chair and another is soon to be established in Kailahun. Folders (1200), booklets (100) and posters (5000) were distributed to partners, youth organisations and refugee populations during the mission.

Excombatants Sensitised on HIV and AIDS

Fifty excombatants were sensitised about HIV and AIDS by UNICEF staff during a recent training organised by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) to undertake cross border EPI activities in the Kailahun area. It is expected that they would serve as community animators within host communities and refugee population.

Radio Magazine Programmes on HIV/AIDS

With support from UNICEF and in conjunction with the National HIV and AIDS Communication Strategy, the Search for Common Grounds Studio has developed radio magazine programmes on HIV and AIDS, which will be aired on all FM radio stations nation-wide. This is the 22nd radio programme developed and presented by trained youth radio producers and presenters. The programme is a youth-to-youth initiative aimed at reaching youths with information on HIV and AIDS through radio. About 5,000 youths and adolescents are reached through this programme each week.

INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

Sierra Leone CD-ROM Encyclopaedia

The CD-ROM Encyclopaedia of Sierra Leone 2002-3. containing information and data on Sierra Leone was completed and distributed to partners in Sierra Leone.

NRS Monitoring System

Under the Technical Committee of the National Recovery Committee, a monitoring system is being developed in order to monitor progress according to the National Recovery Strategy (NRS). The monitoring system comprises data from the District Recovery Committees and the sectoral committees of the District Inter-Agency Forum. The District Recovery Committees are responsible for monitoring progress in the district and report regularly to what extent the NRS benchmarks are achieved. The data processing is done by the SLIS and production of the Data Packs presenting this data is done by SLIS.

The monitoring system of the National Recovery Strategy provides the conduit for local authorities to report statistical information to central government. Such reporting complements UNDP efforts to restore local authorities and in the longer term is key to the decentralisation of decision-making and policy formulation. The NRS Monitoring System provides guidance to the government and humanitarian community in project planning and deliverance.

The data from the system has already been compiled into District and Sectoral Data Packs, including high quality analytical maps. Sectoral Data Packs have also been created for Water and Sanitation, Health, Agriculture and Population.

REFUGEE RESPONSE

Opening of a new camp: Tobanda

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has opened a new refugee camp in Kenema District with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as the camp management. The Tobanda refugee camp was opened Monday, 31 January near Tobanda village in the Small Bo Chiefdom, about 19 miles from Kenema, with a capacity of 10,000 people. With fighting still going on in Liberia and more civilians fleeing for their lives, Tobanda Camp is the eighth to be established in the country by the UNHCR, and the second in the Eastern region. Currently, there are over 55,000 refugees staying in camps including Largo, Bandajuma, Gerihun, Gondama, Jembe, Jimmi Bagbo and Taiama.

UNHCR Delivers Food Package for Fire Victims

UNHCR delivered emergency packages for fire victims in Dandabu village, near Blama in the Small Bo Chiefdom. The fire left 15 houses completely burnt down and 179 people in 17 family heads affected. The assistance included plastic sheets, lamps, sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, soap and some bags of rice for the most vulnerable cases.

Movement from border areas

In Kailahun district as the 15 March deadline given to refugees by government officials (later extended to March 19) to move from border areas to refugee camps approached, pre?registration for relocation to camps continued unabated. On 18 March, a peak was attained, with 1,073 refugees accommodated at the way station, thus putting heavy strain on the limited water and sanitation facilities, whose normal capacity stands at 600 persons. A total of 957 individuals including 82 new arrivals left the Kailahun Way Station for Dauda Way Station.

In Zimmi, shuttling of refugees from the border areas continues. The current caseload at way station stands at 1,344 persons. About 392 refugees were moved to Dauda Way Station on 18 and 20 March, in two convoys.

International Women's Day

Thousands of women living in refugee camps in the operational area, Saturday, 8 March commemorated International Women's Day. Carrying banners, placards and wearing specially designed T-shirts to mark the Day, the refugee women with support from UNHCR Community Services Unit organised marches, panel discussions and role plays, which called for the elimination of violence against women, the need for the education of the girl child and the overall development of women. The commemoration of the Day was however, postponed to Monday in Jembe Camp following the drowning in a nearby river of the husband of one of refugee women, who was actively involved in the commemoration.

Ghanaians Stranded in Sulima

Following reports of Ghanaian migrants (fisherman) in Sulima who fled Robertsport, Liberia, a joint Mission was conducted by the Ghanian High Commission, NaCSA, UNHCR and OCHA to assess their needs.

The Ghanaian Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Earnest-Burke Asare-Asiedu accompanied by an OCHA staff in Kenema and UNHCR staff from Zimmi, Friday, 7 March, visited the Sierra Leonean seaside village of Sulima. The purpose of the DHC's visit was to assess the humanitarian situation of more than 500 Ghanaian citizens, who fled Robersport following the recent fighting between the LURD dissidents and loyalist government forces in Liberia. The caseload lacks various necessities including food, shelter, water, clothing and medical assistance.

Protection

An assessment mission (SC/UK, UNHCR, camp management) was carried out in Njala, close to Taiama camp, to investigate on reports of refugee children being exploited.

The Protection and Community Services teams met with the caregivers in Jimmi Bagbo to review child-monitoring systems and discuss closer collaboration among UNHCR, SCF-UK and the child welfare committee. In general, the unaccompanied minors and separated children, including the recent transfers from Mapeh, are making smooth transitions in the camp.

Camp
Population
Bandajuma
6,037
Gerihun
6,740
Gondama
9,004
Jembe
6,954
Jimmi Bagbo
6,533
Largo
7,269
Taiama
7,534
Tobanda
3,048
Total
53,119

REPATRIATION & RESETTLEMENT

Voluntary Refugee Repatriation

On 7 March 2003 the Representative and the Commissioner for the National Commission for Social Action met and signed the Tripartite Agreement for promotion of voluntary repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea. It is hoped that the Guinean government will sign the Tripartite Agreement shortly. A bilateral agreement between the Sierra Leone government and UNHCR was signed to cover repatriation operations from other countries.

Sensitization Campaign

UNHCR Sierra Leone and UNHCR Guinea together with Government of Sierra Leone officials and the Implementing Partner, Talking Drum, have completed a week-long mass information campaign in refugee camps in Guinea, where at least 80% of the Sierra Leone refugee population has expressed a strong desire to repatriate. The refugees were very excited to learn about the achievement of peace and security through the successful disarmament and demobilization of combatants followed by peaceful elections in May 2002. The mission provided detailed accounts of the reintegration activities currently undertaken by the Government and its collaborating partners for the resettlement of returnees and IDPs.

Repatriation plans

UNHCR has so far assisted over 200,000 Sierra Leoneans to return home. Surrounding countries are still hosting more than 100,000 Sierra Leoneans, with 60,000 in Guinea alone. In an effort to ensure the repatriation of more than 20,000 refugees through the Belu border, before the beginning of the raining season, GTZ engineers are currently working on repairing the temporary causeway, which was partly washed away on 20 April after it rained continually for five days on the Guinean side thus increasing the water current and level. Convoy movement via Pamelap/Port Loko will continue, while the Bo-Pujehun Development Association (BPDA) will accelerate the work on the increase of the Kailahun Way Station capacity to receive 1000 persons a day, once the causeway is repaired.

Repatriation from Liberia

Since February 28, 2003 UNHCR started the repatriation from Liberia by airlift. Two flights are schedule on weekly basis, Mondays and Thursdays, with about 60 persons.

Community Empowerment

An important focus of UNHCR reintegration activities in 2003 and 2004 is the empowerment of communities, helping people to re-establish in main areas of return. Funds are being allocated to community-empowerment projects (CEPs), focusing on small-scale interventions that are decided upon by communities. The scope of the projects is strategic in empowering different groups in communities - especially women, children, adolescents and older people. The projects are including social activities, local construction, gardening and so on, with an imperative for different groups to combine all resources available.

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION & ABUSE PREVENTION

The Training Working Group completed the Training of Trainers Workshop where a pool of 9 trainers received training for the upcoming centralized basic Sexual Exploitation and Abuse workshops. The first Centralized Training on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse took place through the Training Working Group.

A Camp Management Toolkit, with a chapter on Gender Based Violence is being developed.

Distribution of the legal opinion of Sexual Exploitation and Summary Dismissal to workshop participants..

Human Resources Assistance Manual I was distributed to all the International and National NGOs, UN Agencies and pertinent Line Ministries. The Procedural Working Group has completed the first Draft of Manual II of the HR Manual.

The CCSEA started gathering basic information regarding Commercial Sex Workers and Humanitarian Aid / UN Employees.

Sensitisation Campaign against SGBV

In celebration of the WFP SLE designated International Women's Month, WFP collaborated with UNHCR, UNOCHA, UNDP, UNAMSIL, IRC, FAO and refugee women and host communities to organize a sensitization campaign against SGBV in Gerrihun refugee camp. WFP, UNOCHA, FAO, IRC and Gender Focal Points in the camp as well as Camp leaders made statements. The climax of the occasion was a candle light procession, which symbolized the occasion as a new beginning for collaborative efforts to address SGBV. The celebration ended with a role-play and cultural performances. This event will be replicated in all refugee camps throughout the month of March.

SHELTER

CRS Housing Unit

After the Housing Reconstruction project at Rogbery and Foredugu (which facilitated the resettlement of 2,310 and 1,440 beneficiaries respectively), foundations have been set out and excavation for the construction of 3 community structures completed. Building materials are already pre-positioned in both communities, and block making is in progress. In Koinadugu, the reconstruction of 400 houses is in steady progress at Fadugu, Kondenbaia and Mongo Bendugu communities. Meanwhile, construction activities for 5 community structures in Koinadugu have commenced. In Kailahun, construction work for 600 houses and 5 MCH posts remains ongoing. In Kenema District, the first two phases of the construction of the camp is complete, and construction activities for phase III have commenced. There has been great improvement in the Grafton Transitional Housing Project with 10 houses out of 100 already at wall height and ready to be roofed.

Registration of beneficiaries in all target communities in Koinadugu (Kondenbaia, Fadugu, Mongo Bendugu, Lengekoro and Kafogo) has been completed. A total of 400 houses are to be reconstructed. Building materials have been pre-positioned and work has started in Mongo Bendugu, while beneficiaries in Kondenbaia and Fadugu have received roofing materials. Roofing for the MCH post at Kanikay has been completed, with minor repairs and construction of the nurse's quarters ongoing. Construction of community structures in Foredugu, Rogbere, Makiteh and Kailahun is in progress. In Kailahun housing reconstruction activities are advancing well, with 461 out of the 600 houses targeted already completed.

With UNDP/SIDA project plans are being finalized for funding the reconstruction of 400 houses, with the possibility of offering construction skills training to 200 ex-combatants in Kailahun District.

WATER & SANITATION

UNICEF Provides Sanitary Facilities

As lead agency in the provision of Water and Sanitation facilities to refugee camps and hosts communities, UNICEF through it's implementing partner Peace Winds, has completed, 45 double latrines, 64 individual family showers, 2 laundry slabs and 12 garbage points in Bandajuma camp. Twenty-five new community hygiene promoters have also been trained. UNICEF is also supporting daily supply of 65,000 litres of water to the camp. Negotiations are near completion for the provision of WATSAN facilities in a new camp at Tobanda, which is expected to cater for an additional 10,000 refugees.

CARITAS Kenema, with support from UNICEF, has completed the construction of five hand-dug wells, at the Largo refugee camp. Five additional water wells are in progress. In the area of sanitation 63 of the targeted 100 twin showers, 73 of the 100 family latrines and 14 of the 22 laundry slabs have also been completed with support from UNICEF.

UNICEF Provides Solar Pump

A solar pump provided by UNICEF, has been installed to supply a 100 cubic meter storage tank in Yamandu and test distribution is underway. A similar installation has been completed at Sembehun seventeen, and test work is expected to commence soon. Each facility is expected to service about 8000 persons.

UNICEF has selected 22 communities/institutions in six chiefdoms in the northern province for borehole drilling. These include eight (8) in Bombali District and fourteen (14) in Port Loko district. The purpose is to provide potable water for about 10,000 persons.

National Policy on WatSan

The WatSan technical committee decided today to establish two sub-committees - one on water and sanitation (SALWACO as focal point), and the other on energy (MODEP as focal point). The first task of the sub-committees is to draft a national policy on water, sanitation and energy that relates to the NRS and PRSP process.

REGIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

SOUTHERN REGION

HEALTH

Nurses and doctors strike in Bo Government Hospital

The continued strike action by the nurses and doctors in Bo pose serious medical care on the population. In the absence of the medical staffs the populace is forced to resort to quacks as the only remedy.

Malaria control

A newly established NGO - Malaria Emergency Technical and Operational Response (MENTOR Initiative) has started its operation at Largo camp in Kenema District. It is a new purpose-built initiative designed to strengthen the capacity of emergency focused agencies and national partners to implement more effective and coordinated action to reduce malaria related morbidity and mortality. MENTOR is currently conducting a phase III evaluation of insecticide treated emergency shelter plastic sheeting in refugee camps in Sierra Leone.

WATSAN

The implementation of watsan activities in Taiama camp is not commensurate to the requirement of the camp population as there are bottlenecks with WSF interventions with that of the camp management and host community projects. Concern Worldwide (CWW) has to review 34 latrines funded by UNICEF before they phase out on May 2nd.

Though supply of drinking water has improved in some of the camps, other are yet to rely on water trucking to meet their daily requirement

AGRICULTURE

In a bid to meet the food requirement (by way of condiment) of the refugees and support livelihood production, a consultative meeting was held on the 9th April with regards the identification and commencement of agricultural programmes in all camps through provision of agricultural inputs. FAO as the lead agency covered a strategic planning meeting on 23rd April with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) and all camp managers for in-depth statistics to be done and fine tuned by MAFS and targeting criteria to be strictly adhered to for the purpose of agricultural support. A two-day verification exercise was conducted in all camps on 24th and 25th April. UNHCR will make available US$ 200,000 for seeds and tools.

NORTHERN REGION

TRC

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) initiated its inaugural hearing at Port Loko on 29th April 2003. Four men and one woman gave testimonies on the first day. The woman's story highlighted the alleged sexual violence against girls and women in the cause of the decade-old war.

NCDDR

The 713 remaining registered ex-combatants in the Port Loko District were placed into Programmes for the ongoing reintegration process, thus concluding ex-combatant reintegration activities in the area.

The Celtel Mobile Company

Celtel has made progress in erecting a mast for mobile telephone communication system at Makeni at the Mena Hill. It is again projected the system would be operational before the close of the month; a welcoming move to alleviate the communication nightmare affecting the township.

Crime rates

Underlying the peace scenario in the Northern Region is a growing sustainable stability and calmness, culminating into unprecedented flow of returnees into the provincial headquarters Makeni and a steady proliferation of small business activities in the five district headquarters in the region. In rural communities substantial subsistence agricultural activities are underway indicative of a peaceful setting and normalcy. Notwithstanding, persistent crimes of murder, rape, burglary, assault, etc. were upsetting some communities according to Police sources. Nonetheless, UNAMSIL and Police patrols were evident in the Makeni community at night-time and the situation was immensely minimising crime rate in the area. RSLAF maintained patrol of the boarder areas with the Republic of Guinea.

AGRICULTURE

Ministry sources disclosed that while many communities were actively undertaking subsistent farming, food sufficiency would not be quickly realized in the region if government inputs were not forthcoming to mechanise farming, especially rice cultivation in order to boost food production. Weak collaboration and networking between humanitarian organizations and the ministry would further weaken agricultural productivity because of the resultant ineffective monitoring and evaluation on the part of the ministry.

CHILD PROTECTION

Child welfare committees in the region decided to intensify networking in their ranks to be able to address violations of children's welfare, for example; rape, poor educational conditions, etc. Moreover, radio sensitisations focusing children and their parents on child welfare started at the time of writing this report. Furthermore, children's clubs at school level would be formed to encourage child-to-child education on children's welfare and responsibilities.

EDUCATION

Vehicles for schools inspectors

The Port Loko and Kambia districts Inspectorates each received one vehicle for monitoring and supervision purposes of education activities at the field from the Ministry of Education Science and Technology supported by UNICEF.

CARE provides Food Aid

CARE, an international NGO, supported 9486 beneficiaries with 0.85 metric tonnes of cereal for three months as food for work (FFW) in the Tonkolili district in five chiefdoms for road works / rehabilitation, community infrastructure, shelter, fish ponds construction, swamp development, and community farms.

HEALTH

Malaria incidence

According to the records of Sierra Leone Red Cross Makeni, there were 855 reported cases of malaria among under-fives. Although most of those cases were treated, Red Cross officials feared that the situation would not improve because of the poor environmental sanitation conditions prevailing in the township; hence matters will get severe during the raining season when there will be much water to sustain mosquito breeding and subsequent malaria attacks.

SHELTER & NFI

In November 2002 CARE had initiated the facilitation of 2,000 shelter facilities for 2,000 households to be constructed in the Tonkolili district in various communities. It is projected the project would be completed in two weeks time.

WATER & SANITATION

Water shortage

During the reporting period the region was enduring severe water shortages as water wells dried up in many communities forcing many children and women to walk long 9999distances to fetch water. Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) gravity fed water system from Matotoka, 22 miles away from Makeni, failed to deliver any water even though pipes had been laid as far as to Makeni; reasons that the water level in the dam was low.

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