ER Mission responds to COVID in Sierra Leone
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life in West Africa. In Sierra Leone, which is ranked 181 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index, the pandemic widened the level of vulnerability especially among poverty-stricken households. The country is a net importer of rice and other commodities, so the pandemic has created an exponential increase in the prices of basic food items. This added with disruptions caused by supply chain restrictions has caused untold suffering among many vulnerable households.
In response to the needs of the local communities, the West Africa Area Mission Office with a grant from Edmund Rice Development supported 98 households with basic food items across five Christian Brothers’ communities in Sierra Leone. The food items were distributed to the households in November 2021 and included rice, vegetable oil, onions, tomato cartons and packets of spices.
The five Christian Brothers communities, Bo, Blama, Calaba Town, Hamilton and Makeni, are five of the most deprived communities among the ten operational Christian Brothers’ communities in the West Africa Area. The Bo and Blama communities are vulnerable communities in the South-East of Sierra Leone. The Calaba Town and Hamilton communities are poverty-stricken coastal fishing communities with informal settlements. The Makeni community is a vulnerable community in the North of the country with a myriad of challenges including economic hardship.
The allocation of households per community was done with consideration to the degree of need in each of the five targeted areas. Many of the households were made up of members that rely on manual labor and petty trading to survive; the pandemic restrictions on movement severely affected their ability to earn a livelihood.
Upon receiving the distributed food items, the beneficiaries were elated and offered words of appreciation to what the food items meant to them. Miata from the Bo Community bemoaned, “You won’t understand the reason behind my tears. My children and I have been living on cassava for the past one week. The last time we ate rice was on credit and I haven’t paid for those cups of rice to this date. I can’t believe my children and I will be eating rice, cooked with vegetable oil for the coming days. I will make sure I keep some for Christmas day. Thank you so much.”
Mary from the Hamilton Community shared "I am an orphan. I have no one to rely on except God and partially my aunt who sells vegetable crops to earn a living. My suitor impregnated me and abandoned me. I am struggling with the pregnancy as my suitor is nowhere to be found. I am more worried about the time I am going to deliver. Who will be there to help me and my kid? I really don’t know how to bless you Godly people for this good work".
Mamie from Calaba Town remarked, “I have never in my life bought a full bag of rice on my own. Thank you brothers for restoring dignity to my life”. Weah, a blind beggar from the Blama Community said “Brothers, you have restored my hope, at least for the coming weeks, I don’t have to beg in order to have food on my table”
The intervention was impactful as it contributed to government and local communities’ efforts in responding to the socioeconomic chasm created by the pandemic. The Christian Brothers in the selected communities alongside the Local Chiefs and Youth Leaders implemented the grant, with the West Africa Mission Office providing oversight. We thank the ERD private donors for their generous support of this pandemic response initiative in Sierra Leone.