WCO and UN-OCHA advocate Sierra Leone Customs role for priority clearance of relief goods

10 November 2017

The World Customs Organization (WCO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) conducted a first mission in Sierra Leone, under the C-RED Project funded by the Government of the Netherlands. The mission aimed at strengthening Sierra Leone’s coordination capacities and at ensuring priority clearance of relief goods in cases of regional epidemics or natural disasters.

The mission was held in Freetown from 30 October to 2 November 2017.

The objective of the mission was threefold:

  • to strengthen national coordination between all stakeholders, both governmental bodies and humanitarian actors, having a role in the clearance of relief goods,
  • to update existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding clearance of international relief consignments, so that it can be used in the future as a handbook for all involved stakeholders, and
  • to reach an agreement on procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and its delivery to front-line customs officers of Sierra Leone.

The 4-day programme was opened by the Director of the monitoring, research and planning Department of the National Revenue Authority (NRA).The workshop benefitted from a broad range of representatives from several government bodies (among those the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, the Police and the Office of National Security) - as well as representatives of the Humanitarian Community, such as the World Food Programme, IRC, UNICEF and Customs brokers.

In highly interactive sessions, the WCO and OCHA presented the C-RED Project, Customs challenges and the international tools to be used in the fight against regional epidemics or natural disasters. Stakeholders presented the current situation, challenges and bottlenecks related to the clearance of relief goods. Intensive group work resulted in a draft of SOPs and a list of recommendations to improve current procedures, to be finalized and endorsed at a later date. Deadlines were set for each recommendation as well as for the final adoption of the consolidated draft SOPs.

The mission was a valuable opportunity for a cooperative approach of the subject in Sierra Leone. Participants thanked the facilitators and called for continued support to further improve the clearance of relief goods in Sierra Leone.

It should be recalled that the overall goal of the C-RED project is to assist Customs administrations of West African countries to be better prepared to contain the effects of natural disasters and regional epidemics, such as Ebola outbreak. More information about the C-RED project can be found via this link