From the eyes of an early responder in Sierra Leone

28 Aug 2017 by Tanzila Watta Sankoh, Programme Specialist, UNDP Sierra Leone

A man speaking into a megaphone Realizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with the search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP Sierra LeoneRealizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP in SIerra Leone
On 14 August, my phone starting ringing … It was my mother. She resides at Regent, a community on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf, the conical peak overlooking Freetown. Being at the epicentre of the catastrophic flash flood and landslides, she saw the disaster unfold and immediately called me, confirming my foreboding about receiving early morning calls from my mother. When I arrived at the scene with UNDP colleagues in charge of disaster management and a few staff members from the Office of National Security (ONS), I was utterly shocked by the scene of devastation. It was raining incessantly. The sky was gloomy, and one of Freetown’s highest mountains looked like it had been cracked in two. The landslides had claimed the lives of more than 400 people, leaving over 2,000 homeless and an estimated 600 still trapped in the debris. I had never seen such desolation in my entire life. As we moved on, we saw ambulances carrying corpses and youth volunteers desperately working in the hope of rescuing survivors. We also saw people's resilience, of the kind we had already witnessed during the Ebola epidemic. They dug through the mud with bare hands to rescue their loved ones. … Read more

How will we ensure the new Ebola vaccine reaches those most in need?

13 Aug 2015 by By Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director for HIV, Health and Development, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

A family recovering from the impact of Ebola in Liberia.Community participation in immunization programmes results in higher coverage and reduces the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Photo: UNDP Liberia
We are optimistic about a new tool in the fight against Ebola. The phase III trials on efficacy of the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine have yielded an impressive result in a relatively short time - 100% effectiveness in those receiving the vaccine. Without a doubt, this is an important tool for the protection of health and community workers and possibly the wider community. But how will this new tool be used? How will it reach those in need? … Read more

If you want it done, take action

12 Aug 2015 by Lei Phyu, Communications & Social Media Analyst, Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP

young Syrian womanYouth participate in a rubbish removal initiative in As-Salamieh, Syria. Photo: UNDP Syria
It pains me when people on social media comment that everyday civic engagement isn’t their responsibility and should be solely the work of governments and the UN. Civic engagement is defined as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.” We don’t all need to be leaders, but we should all take part in our society. If we get a cut, do we treat ourselves right away or do we wait for a leader to bring us a Band-Aid? If we want an improvement in our community done right, our way, why shouldn’t we take initiative rather wait for permission from a leader to do it for us? … Read more

UNDP missions powered by the sun

03 Aug 2015 by William Allen, Communications Specialist, UNDP

workers install solar panelsWorkers install solar panels on the roof of the UNDP offices in Sierra Leone.
UNDP offices are looking to the sky to power their programmes. It's interesting to see what we have already accomplished, and how much more we can do. Solar power is a champion for many of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, including targets for resilient cities, infrastructure, and sustainable energy. It is a key to our global warming crisis, especially for sun-filled regions of the world. It creates an energy-independent environment with less noise and air pollution and sustainable, outage-free workplaces for UNDP and its partners. … Read more

What does inclusive economic growth actually mean in practice?

31 Jul 2015 by By Paloma Durán, Director, Sustainable Development Goals Fund

Coffee cooperative in AfricaA farmer with his family in Chingawaram village, India. Inclusive growth is about ensuring that the benefits of development reach the entire population, including the most vulnerable members. Photo: UNDP India
With the historic Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) now completed, “inclusive growth” remains a high priority on the agenda. While most stakeholders agree it’s an important and compelling part of the dialogue on development, it still remains rather ambiguous as a term. And seemingly when you ask five economists to define the concept, you will likely end up with six answers. Within the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund), we are keen to understand the various theories pertaining to inclusive growth and how best to put them into practice. We realize that there’s more than one way to achieve this objective, which means there is plenty of room for creativity. … Read more

Financing for development in resource-rich countries

01 May 2015 by Degol Hailu, Senior Advisor for Sustainable Development

Photo: UNDP in Zimbabwe
Decline in commodity prices is threatening the availability of funds for development. A promising option for resource-rich countries is to capture a bigger share of the profits generated from the exploitation of their natural resources. In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts on key financing for development issues … Read more

Inside UNDP: Lionel Laurens

19 Jan 2015 by Lionel Laurens, Ebola Virus Disease Immediate Response Coordinator, UNDP, Sierra Leone

 Lionel in Freetown.
Lionel Laurens, from France, is a development practitioner who has worked for UNDP for 10 years. He’s driven by a desire to contribute to a more equal world by working with people to be in control of their own development in their own environment. … Read more

Adaptation and attitude are two keys to crisis response

13 Jan 2015 by Lionel Laurens, Ebola Virus Disease Immediate Response Coordinator, Sierra Leone

 Sierra Leone has begun to use new, environmentally-friendly sterilizing equipment to help dispose of the vast amounts of contaminated protective equipment and infectious waste generated in treating Ebola patients. (Photo: Lesley Wright/UNDP)
I came to Sierra Leone in July 2014 on a temporary assignment as Area Based Development (ABD) Advisor, but when I arrived the Ebola outbreak had reached an unprecedented scale and the delivery of UNDP’s regular programmes was low priority.  UNDP, as a development agency, was not seen as particularly relevant or equipped to deal with a humanitarian crisis.  But UNDP had programmable resources, a strong network of relationships with government and other stakeholders, and a strong desire amongst the staff to help their communities confront Ebola.   A lot of my work at UNDP has been developing and implementing programmes in creative ways and having that experience helped during the Ebola crisis.  I helped the Country Office to reprioritize our activities in innovative ways to respond to the crisis. We reached out to our partners and marginalized groups to identify useful interventions that were in dire need. We then reprogrammed UNDP’s work to build on our existing programmes and relationships to address key issues for those not yet reached by existing prevention activities. As a result of this we have been able to: Work in partnership with local partner NGOs and government to train 300 volunteers and communities on Ebola … Read more

Ebola: Recovery needs to start now

05 Jan 2015 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

ebola worker dressingA worker poses for the camera at a dressing station in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Photo: Lesley Wright/UNDP)
The social and economic impact of the Ebola crisis will be felt up to a decade after the disease has been eradicated. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, virtually every sector has suffered as a result of the epidemic. For example, based on UNDP’s most recent estimates, Liberia could experience negative GDP growth for the first time since the war ended 11 years ago, reaching -1.8 percent.   In all three countries, air traffic is down, mining and palm oil concessions have been badly affected, and so have farming and small trade, crippled by quarantines and movement restrictions. Because national economies are coming to a standstill, the crisis is impairing the ability of governments to raise taxes and invest in infrastructure and social services. For instance, more than 800,000 women will give birth during the next 12 months. But with the severe shortage of health facilities and professionals, compounded by the fear of getting infected in a clinic, many could die without proper care. Five million children are out of school because their classes have shut down. Whereas life before Ebola was starting to improve, people are now struggling again with uncertainty. Besides the personal loss and the stigma, the immense … Read more

Ebola: How the rumour mill can churn out fact instead of fiction

04 Dec 2014 by Lesley Wright, Communications Specialist, UNDP Sierra Leone

 Ebola community messengerA resident of Waterloo, an Ebola virus hotspot, gets first hand prevention information from one UNDP-supported community volunteer. Photo: H. Uddin/UNDP Sierra Leone
Ebola spreads fast and rumours even faster. In a crisis where information means the difference between life and death, the rumour mill is not helping to end the outbreak. Everyone has a theory about Ebola; some claim they know how to stop it, most claim to know where it came from. Most of the theories contradict reality and serve as a roadblock to eradicating Ebola, like false cures or where donor money is spent. Sierra Leone is a story-telling society, but word of mouth is the best form of communications, particularly when more than 60% of adults are illiterate. In Sierra Leone, secret societies, tacit ethical codes and centuries-long traditions rule the roost. So when some people speak, the country listens.   With this rumour mill comes potential. We, and other UN agencies, NGOs, the Government of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders have made messaging the core of our work. Whether it’s going door-to-door, erecting giant billboards or handing out flyers, getting the right message to everyone is not just about exposure, it’s about trust. Our Ebola community messengers go through their own communities, and speak face-to-face, ensuring they are heard loud and clear. If not, their blue overalls with 117, … Read more