Freetown, February 28: The Kombra Media Network (KMN) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with implementers of SABI project with the goal of expanding information sharing through coverage for its activities nationwide.

Kombra Media Network, which is a network of health journalists with membership cutting across the length and breadth of Sierra Leone, will serve as a watchdog for the SABI partner organizations, in addition to raising awareness among beneficiary communities, according to the details of the agreement signed on Thursday, February 28.

SABI is a citizen-led accountability initiative designed to increase awareness of and demand for the delivery of basic services, including health, education, social protection, water and energy.

The four-year UK-funded program, which was conceived as part of the post-2014-2016 Ebola recovery efforts, seeks to support the building of relationships between citizens and the state, with the ultimate goal of supporting the government’s development plans. With funding from the UK Aid, SABI is being implemented by a consortium of leading international and local partner organizations, led by the international development agency Christian Aid.

The program was designed to support citizens to identify problems and work with state service providers to overcome challenges in service delivery. Gender equality and social inclusion are at the heart of it all, with a special focus on vulnerable and excluded groups who receive
skills development designed to make them active agents of change in their communities.

SABI is being implemented at district, chiefdom, ward and community levels across all 16 districts of the country. As of February 2019, the project was operating in 610 communities across 106 wards.

At the national level, the project is implemented via engagement with relevant national stakeholders.
A total of seven NGOs are involved in the SABI project, among them Restless Development, Social Enterprises for Development (SEND) – Sierra Leone, the Rehabilitation and Development Agency (RADA), Sierra Leone Social Aid Volunteers, and Social Development Direct.

FOCUS 1000 is responsible for the National Level Engagement.

Besides reporting on the activities of the SABI consortium, KMN is expected to help hold service providers and duty bearers accountable for their stewardship by using their journalistic skills and media outlets to report human interest stories on access to the various services, according to the MoU, which was signed on behalf of the consortium by Focus 1000. The journalist network will also make input into the development and review of the SABI citizen’s perception data collection process including input into the development of questionnaires and related tools and report on the findings from the survey.

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Kemoh Cham-National Coordinator of KMN signing the document on behalf of the network

KMN was established in 2015 as part of the Civil Society Platform hosted by FOCUS 1000 to contribute to the national effort of scaling-up nutrition and immunization.

With a membership of over 60 people, drawn from both print and electronic media, the network’s key objective is to report on health-related activities like issues in nutrition, immunization and other topical health concerns as well as sensitize the public for positive behaviour and social change.

Mohammad Bailor Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer of FOCUS 100, said at the brief signing ceremony held at their head office in Freetown that the media’s role in the successful implementation of the SABI project is sacrosanct given the need for awareness-raising among the beneficiary communities and its power to hold duty bearers

The partnership is one of the core values that shape the strategic direction of SABI, and a vital output that contributes immensely to the achievement of its overall goal. It uses innovative and inclusive methods to periodically engage partners at community, district and

national levels, to create an environment of learning, building relationships and expanding on its networks.

The MoU with KMN is just the latest in a series of such partnership building, says Saad Barrie, SABI project manager at Focus 1000.

“The SABI project is dear to us. We want to support the government in improving the quality of public services and making service providers accountable to citizens,” he said.
He added: “I am very excited for the signing of this MoU. Over the years, FOCUS 1000 has had a very fruitful relationship with the media and the Kombra Media Network has been our strongest media partner.”

Written by Kemoh Cham- Kombra Media Network National Coordinator