The Sierra Leone hub is being run jointly by the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) and affiliates of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) in Sierra Leone – the Federation of Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA). The partners will draw from their multidisciplinary skills and experiences in epidemiology and health systems strengthening, urban development, participatory research, community engagement etc. The partners will explore social identities, intersectionality and governance as measures for understanding the determinants of health in informal settlements and build capacities to enhance equity and access to improved healthcare services.
Dr. Wurie, in her presentation summarised the vision of ARISE, which aims to enhance change by supporting informal settlement residents to amplify their voices, many of whom she said are often made vulnerable to complex socio-economic challenges, fragile ecosystems and political violence. She highlighted the country’s weak health system and the need for timely and disaggregated data on the state of health of vulnerable people, especially those living in informal settlements, and that the coming of ARISE is useful in filling that gap. She said the research work to be undertaken by ARISE not only aspires to provide useful evidence, but will improve links between communities and policy stakeholders.
Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie,
COMAHS Team Lead for ARISE
Dr. Joseph Macarthy
Executive Director of SLURC
He explained the scope of work through the various work packages which relate to 1) understanding social identities, and how they shape access to healthcare services; 2) exploring governance systems and how they shape inequity and 3) analysing secondary data hosted by national/international organizations to draw comparisons with empirical field data to further understand health needs of vulnerable people in the urban context. He said the work packages will be logically rolled out between communities and shared among partners within the project’s five-year cycle.
Issues of empowerment through knowledge co-production were reiterated by several speakers during the discussion, as communities believe that they have enough enlightenment to understand their own health and social needs. However, what is critically needed according to a community member from Moyiba, is a strong commitment to action in searching for community grown solutions.
Earlier, the welcome statement was made by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of COMAHS, University of Sierra Leone, Professor Mohamed Samai. He highlighted numerous planning challenges such as poor construction of houses and drainage, which make people vulnerable to flooding and health problems in informal settlements, and gave assurance of the university’s support for ARISE in providing evidence to aid policy processes to improve the wellbeing of people living in informal settlements.
The first session for the launch of the event was facilitated by the Director of Research and Training at SLURC, Braima Koroma, who also emphasised the need for integrating community knowledge and experiences with those of policy stakeholders to enhance informed policy processes to improve conditions in informal settlements.
Improving health and wellbeing in Freetown’s informal settlements is a truly multidisciplinary challenge, which is reflected in the diverse range of stakeholders involved in the ARISE launch event in Freetown.