IsraAID named Sierra Leone’s Outstanding International NGO of the Year

The Israeli NGO has been working in Sierra Leone since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Israeli humanitarian aid NGO IsraAID’s team in Sierra Leone has been recognized as ‘Outstanding International NGO of the Year’ at the Sierra Leone Awards 2018. The award recognized IsraAID Sierra Leone’s “excellence, innovation and effectiveness in improving the lives of the poor and those most vulnerable in local communities in Sierra Leone.”

The prize was awarded last week at a ceremony in Freetown, with the mayor of Freetown, representatives of the Office of the President, senior government ministers, and other dignitaries from government, business, and the NGO community in attendance. The award was accepted on stage by Jinnah Gbanda, IsraAID Sierra Leone’s program manager. Jinnah has been working with IsraAID Sierra Leone since the very start of the organization’s activities in the country in 2014, rising from a Social Work Intern to lead the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support team.

IsraAID has been working in Sierra Leone since the 2014 Ebola outbreak, with a dedicated team including national and Israeli staff, focused primarily on mental health and psychological support. During the outbreak, IsraAID’s team provided training, mentoring, and supervision to Ebola survivors, frontline workers, and affected communities. Since the country was declared Ebola-free in 2016, IsraAID Sierra Leone has continued to focus on psychosocial support and protection.

This year, IsraAID’s team has focused on strengthening community resilience in the face of disasters. The Freetown First Responders program, developed initially in response to last year’s deadly mudslides that killed over 1,100 in Freetown, trained a group of 50 young people in Disaster Risk Reduction and Psychosocial support, bolstering resilience and ensuring they can lead their communities should a future disaster occur.

In 2018, IsraAID Sierra Leone also concentrated on empowering pregnant teenagers and young mothers. Recently, the country has seen a significant increase in the number of teenage pregnancies, and today has a higher adolescent birth rate than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. IsraAID’s Bold Response to Teenage Pregnancy project works with 100 girls and 50 boys in Kambia district, northern Sierra Leone, increasing psychological resilience and knowledge in maternity and infant nutritional health, while aiming to reduce the stigma and risk of social isolation felt by young mothers and pregnant teenagers.

Kareen Zabow, IsraAID Sierra Leone Country Director, said: “Every day, we find ourselves inspired by the people we reach. This year, we have been blown away by the incredible power of the Freetown First Responders, a group of young people who have experienced disaster and are now choosing to take responsibility over the future of their communities. Similarly, we have been moved by the young people taking part in the Bold Response to Teenage Pregnancy program, like 18-year old Aminata. Aminata became pregnant as a teenager and described feeling like she had thrown her life away, becoming ‘another statistic’. Through the program, Aminata empowered herself to change her circumstances, finding what she called ‘inner peace’ and enrolling in further education. Stories like these demonstrate both the amazing impact of our team and the courage and strength of the communities we work with – this award is dedicated to them.”

In a joint statement, Yotam Polizer and Navonel Glick, IsraAID Co-CEOs, said:  “We are incredibly proud of our Sierra Leone team for this important recognition of their work. In 2014, we led IsraAID’s initial emergency response during the height of the Ebola outbreak. The distance travelled since then – both by the country and by the IsraAID Sierra Leone team – has been enormous. Our talented national and international staff members have worked with diligence, passion, and commitment to building a better future for Sierra Leone, and they fully deserve this honor.”