As living conditions turn tough
Businesswomen in two of the four Mano River Union countries have called on their respective governments to consider reopening the borders as the economic difficulties continue to severely impact their livelihoods.
According to the women, who held a high-level stakeholder engagement meeting along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border recently, the closure of the borders as a result of COVID-19 has brought devastating consequences that they cannot continue to bear. As a result, they claim that they are compelled to risk their lives by crossing at illegal border points, making use of the porosity of the borders.
In their quest for reopening the borders, the women said: “There is a need to open the border, but with the care of safety, health, and security measures put in place for all users and to strengthen trade in a secured environment.
The women spoke of the devastating blow to and strangulation of their economic growth and stability dealt by the outbreak of the pandemic which has affected the once booming venture of trade.
Many of them said they no longer have the means to do their business with the closure of the borders. The women stressed that all their capital has been sucked up due to COVID-19.
According to them, in their desperation to fend for their families, some of their members use any of the over 40 illegal crossing points between the two countries to make ends meet. In some instances, this accordingly leads to fatality.
“Our women, who are mostly single parents, are dying because they are taking huge risks for their children and families to survive,” says Bindu Swarary.
The Mano River Union (MRU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) joint project high-level stakeholder engagement meetings along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border was a follow-up assessment mission to the two “Class A” borders in Jendema and Bo Waterside. The project focuses on areas of cooperation to enhance the effectiveness of their development efforts in the four MRU countries including Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
It is also intended to strengthen regional integration that seeks to advance peace and security as well as the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the member states.
The engagement brought together UNDP Representatives from Liberia and Sierra Leone, government and local officials, including immigration authorities, border officials, paramount chiefs, as well as women leadership of cross border trade, who discussed issues of health, security and the economy in the midst of #COVID-19.
The porosity of the borders is a matter of interest especially when the virus is transmitted from human to human. Thus, the need for a regional response cannot be overemphasized.
On two separate occasions, the MRU/UNDP Project has turned over materials and supplies to the Government of Liberia through the National Response Coordinator of the Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC).
This is in recognition of the need to support health systems, border area awareness, and sensitization to enhance prevention and response.
At the same time, the response is to help improve cross border gender awareness surveillance and cooperation between and among MRU countries. The materials were intended for four counties (Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, Maryland, and Lofa) covering a total of 22 targeted border communities.
The MRU/UNDP project delegation was led by the Head of MRU Secretariat Medina Wisseh, the Resident Representatives of Liberia and Sierra Leone Pa Lamiin Beyai and Sam Doe (respectively), as well as the Internal Affairs Minister of Sierra Leone, David Panda Noah, among others. Additional toiletries and nose masks were turned over by the project at the end of the consultation.