By Jarrah Kawusu-Konteh, Freetown.
The outgoing Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madam Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura (photo) has formally taken leave of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House, Freetown, to take up her new appointment as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
President Koroma said that he took up office at a time when things were in a bad state in the country, but government was able to surmount those challenges because of the support he received from ministers like the outgoing Minister of Health and Sanitation and other members of cabinet.
The President also mentioned the gains made so far in the health sector by halving the maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. "We have saved lives and we have improved on our service delivery in the health sector”, he confidently maintained. He further commended Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura for the significant contributions she had made to the delivery of health services in the country.
He lamented the outbreak of the cholera disease at a time when government was doing tremendously well in delivering services in the health sector, but however hoped that with the goodwill and support displayed by Sierra Leone’s development partners there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Chief Executive also noted that the appointment of Madam Bangura to such a high profile job in the world body was not just a big feather to her cap, but also that it has increased the profile of the country with her serving in such a capacity. He urged her to continue to work very hard to fly the Sierra Leone flag very high as it will encourage the UN to employ more Sierra Leoneans to high profile positions in that institution.
In her farewell address, the newly appointed Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Madam Zainab Bangura, paid glowing tribute to President Koroma for giving her the opportunity to serve under his unique stewardship of the country in two key ministries; namely, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as well as the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
“I wish to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt and sincere gratitude and appreciation to you for giving me the opportunity to serve and contribute to the rebuilding efforts of your Government in challenging capacities; first as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, from October, 2007, to December 2010, and then as Minister of Health and Sanitation from December 2010, to date”, Madam Bangura said.
The outgoing Health and Sanitation Minister also profusely thanked President Ernest Bai Koroma for supporting her appointment and for sending her on secondment from the Sierra Leone Government to the United Nations to serve for a period of two years. She noted that “This is an expression of the confidence that the United Nations has bestowed on the Government of Sierra Leone to send a serving Minister to share experiences learnt in Sierra Leone, during its post conflict recovery. It is therefore with deep regret that I move into the international arena. I am however going away with the assurance and confidence that the lessons learnt while with you will help me in my new appointment.”
According to Madam Zainab Bangura, she took up appointment at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation at a time when the Ministry did not have a substantive Minister for over a year. The mission of the Ministry, she said, was “to ensure that available resources (human, financial, and material) are maximally utilized for the purpose of achieving the ministry’s goal, which is to provide quality, affordable and accessible health care services to the people of Sierra Leone”.
She submitted a 51-page report to the President on the state of the health sector, its achievements, challenges and recommendations for the guidance of her successor in that very important Ministry.
Madam Zainab Bangura also expressed her heartfelt thanks and appreciation to President Koroma, the government and people of Sierra Leone for the opportunity to serve. “I thank you for your total and personal support on every occasion I had required it. I would however like to reaffirm that I shall remain at your disposal in this position and that you have my continued commitment and support to the success of Your Excellency’s government”, she concluded.