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Sierra Leone News: Vulnerable people to benefit from social protection by 2020

The UNAIDS Country Director in Sierra Leone, Dr. Michael Gboun, explained that the just concluded seminar with the theme: “Conducing HIV and Social Protection Assessment in Sierra Leone” is geared towards enhancing and fast-tracking commitments to end AIDS by 2030. He said the target is to strengthening national social and child protection systems to ensure that by 2020, 75% of people living with HIV benefits from HIV sensitive social protection.In his overview of social protection, Dr. Gboun said that there is powerful proof that social protection reduces HIV risks, improves access to HIV testing and treatment and adherence, and alleviates the impact of the AIDS epidemic. The UNAIDS Country Head further confirmed, “Social protection schemes are on the increase in all regions and they offer major opportunities to protect greater numbers of people against HIV infections and other threats to their health, increase access to and adherence to HIV services.”In addition, Dr. Gboun stated that the combination of social protection provisions have cumulative effects in reducing new HIV infections and increasing adherence to HIV treatments. Therefore, he said the expansion of social protection programmes to cover vulnerable people including people living with HIV, are at risk of or affected by HIV in the financially feasible and scalable real world. The UNAIDS Country Chief sadly expressed that since the end of the country’s 11 years civil war in 2002, and the Ebola outbreak that killed over 4,000 people leaving behind Ebola Survivours, orphans, widows and dissipated some families and villages, the country now has multiple groups of vulnerability. He cited examples like sex workers, PLHIV, MSM, people with disabilities, Ebola survivours, transgender, child-headed households, adolescent girls, teenage mothers, orphans, PWID. He said on 30 March 2011, the Cabinet approved a National Social Protection Policy that defines specific outcomes and prioritize interventions. He said, the strategy focuses on 10 areas namely: increasing access to education and health services; expanding existing pilot social assistance programs; encouraging traditional family and community support for the vulnerable; promoting insurance schemes; providing transfer to increase the use of social service; providing homes or shelters for elderly and abused children; promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; supporting livelihood and empowerment opportunities; developing small and medium-size enterprises; and building infrastructure that is accessible to the physically challenged. Opening the workshop, North-West Regional Assistant Director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Bamie Sesay expressed confidence that the findings and outcome of the workshop will support decision making in strengthening HIV sensitivity of social protection programmes. Other groups were present including: World Food Programme (WFP); National AIDS Secretariat (NAS); Network on HIV Positives (NETHIPS); Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES); Consortium to Advance the Rights of Key Affected Populations (CARKAP); Youths and Paramount Chief Mafoki Chiefdom, PC Alikali Mela III.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Thursday June 29, 2017.

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