Countries in West Africa that were affected by the Ebola virus disease (EVD) discuss customs facilitation procedures for the clearance and release of humanitarian relief goods

As part of the WCO Customs for Relief of Epidemic Diseases (C-RED) Project, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the WCO conducted a 4 day regional workshop for the West African countries that were affected by the Ebola virus disease, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria and Mali. The objective of the workshop was to discuss regional and national challenges as well as solutions to facilitate the import and transit of humanitarian relief goods in times of crisis based on national, regional and international best practices.

The workshop, which took place in Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 1-4 November 2016, was jointly planned and conducted in cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Participants to this workshop included Customs officers from Headquarters and customs front line officers, other border agency officers, representatives from the respective Ministry of Health as well as representatives from ECOWAS Commission responsible for Humanitarian and Social Affairs.

The Commissioner General of the Sierra Leone, Ms. Haja I. Kallah- Kamara, stressed the importance of this project, since even in the time of crisis, not all customs rules can be abandoned. The procedures have to be facilitated without further compromising the security of the country.

During the workshop, participants confirmed the need for regional coordination to guide the customs response to regional epidemic diseases. As a result, the ECOWAS Commission offered to evaluate how this problem can be addressed for all ECOWAS members. At the national level, participants identified lack of or insufficient customs facilitation measures and the lack of communication and cooperation with other government agencies as the main challenges in the priority clearance of relief goods. As a result of the workshop, each country has developed an action plan which outlines the next steps that need to be taken on a national level in order to improve the priority clearance of relief goods in times of crisis. The WCO C-RED project will continue to support the region by assisting a number of selected countries in the drafting of simplified customs procedures and standard operating procedures as well as with the organization of simulation exercises, based on international and regional best practices.

For more information on the workshop or the project, please feel free to contact the WCO C-RED Project manager, Ms. Eve Gérard (

You can also visit the WCO webpage on the C-RED Project: