IGR identifies Kono, Tonkolili with high infant mortality rate

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IGR boss & MLGCA signing the MOU  

By Yusufu S Bangura

The Executive Director of the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), Andrew Lavali, has mentioned Kono and Tonkolili districts as areas of concern for infant mortality during the launch of the first Local Governance and Services Tracker (LGST) BASE.

The event took place at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs conference room in Freetown on March 4, 2024.

Lavali revealed alarming statistics, indicating infant mortality rates of 35.0% and 22.5% in Kono and Tonkolili districts, respectively. He attributed the high rates to mining communities where young girls, opting not to attend school, face pregnancies that sometimes lead to fatal outcomes.

The LGST BASE project, funded by USAID, aims to address such challenges through an online citizen scorecard. Lavali emphasised the need for collaboration between the government, communities, the Ministry of Health, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to reduce infant mortality in these districts.

The LGST operates on three levels including Central Government, Local Government, and CSO and Media.

 Lavali noted that the budget allocation to local councils was only 1.5%, with transfers to local councils at 23% in 2023. This, he argued, demonstrated a weak commitment to decentralization, affecting the capacity of local councils to deliver quality services.

The expected outcomes of the LGST in 36 months include increased community stability, higher local council revenue, and enhanced citizen’s trust in local authorities, improved learning outcomes, increased farmers yields, and reduced mortality rates among mothers and children under five.

Prof. Fredline M’Cormack Hale, Chairperson and Project Lead, explained that the project, developed by a coalition of CSOs, promotes constructive engagement between citizens, the central government, and local councils. Implemented in six districts—Moyamba, Kabala, Karen Falaba, Tonkolili, and Kono—the LGST aims to increase citizen participation in local government and policy processes.

The Minister of Local Government and Community Affairs, Ambassador Tamba Lamina, commended the BASE Consortium for the innovative LGST. He emphasized its role in tracking government activities and services at both central and local levels, promoting citizen participation in evaluating governmental activities.

While acknowledging the critical role of civil society in criticizing and collaborating with authorities for positive improvements, Minister Lamina assured that the dashboard serves as a tool for improvement and will be regularly updated. He officially launched the project and pledged the government’s commitment throughout the three years of the BASE project.

Representative of USAID, Moi Sellu, expressed optimism about the project’s impact on citizen participation and governance processes, highlighting its three-year timeline and initial positive outcomes. Local council representatives provided feedback during the launch, appreciating the initiative and pledging to address any shortcomings to ensure alignment across districts.

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