By Foday Moriba Conteh
As part of their effort towards strengthening an effective early warning system where citizens will have the opportunity to call and report incidences of emergencies for free by using an Africell Sim across the country, Africell Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) on Tuesday 14th, September 2021 officially launched 1199 Toll-Free Line during an auspicious event held at the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) Headquarters at Aberdeen in Freetown.
In his statement, the Director-General of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Lt. Gen. (Retired) Brima Sesay applauded Africell Sierra Leone for the laudable venture towards strengthening the early warning system in the country.
He highlighted how the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) was established by an Act of Parliament in 2020 to deal with disasters and similar emergencies throughout Sierra Leone and to develop the capacity of residents in communities to respond effectively to disasters and emergencies, adding that the Agency was launched by President Julius Maada Bio at State House on the 19th November 2020 and since its inception, the Agency has taken significant steps to enhance effective coordination through partnerships, inter-agency dialogue, collaboration, engagements with MDAs and devising workable strategies to streamline the activities of NGOs dealing with disaster-related issues in the country.
Lt. Gen. (Retired) Brima Sesay revealed that two months ago, the NDMA wrote to the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) for approval to enable mobile companies operating in the country to help the Agency with Toll-Free lines and other facilities essential in enabling the public to receive Early Warning alerts from NDMA and equally give the public an opportunity to make free calls in order to report disaster related-issues.
Against such a backdrop, he said Africell mobile company responded to their request in the affirmative approving almost all their requests through constructive engagements with its leadership.
He expressed delight to underscore that the approved package from Africell will equip them to timely respond to emergencies and will be of immense support in reducing the risk of hazards across the country.
The package from Africell, the Director-General said, includes the provision of a Toll-Free Number 1199 to call and report incidences of emergencies for free from any Africell Sim, 145 mobile phones with free CUG sim cards to ensure effective communication flow amongst staff members across the country furthering that the company has also allocated 1-hour radio program called NDMA Hour on its radio station (AfriRadio 101.3 FM). That platform will be used to propagate the activities of the Agency, undertake public education on early warning signs, risk reduction and preparedness.
In his statement, Africell’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Joe Abass Bangura, maintained that information technology is very important in relation to early warning and that is why they deemed it fit to partner with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), adding that the partnership with NDMA started during the fire disaster at Susan’s Bay of which he said their presence at Susan’s Bay speaks volume as they made the presentation of cash direct transfer and other intervention amounting to over 400 million Leones.
He noted that during the process they noticed the commitment of the NDMA in terms of rolling out their mandate as an institution.
Joe Abass Bangura furthered that the move by the company to partner with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) was borne out of the need to liaise with the agency to enhance an effecting early warning system across the country.
He pointed out that there had been a lot of disasters in the country ranging from the mudslide, flash floods, fire outbreak etc. but said with this partnership it will mitigate disasters in the country.
Launching the Toll-Free Line, the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swarray commended Africell Sierra Leone for forging the partnership and launching the 1199 Toll-Free Line with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to call and report incidences of emergencies for free from any Africell Sim across the country.
He said information technology is very key towards the strengthening of an early warning system in the country and that the Government is very committed to addressing issues of disaster, stating that to achieve that goal that was why the Government established the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA)to develop the capacity of communities to respond effectively to disasters and emergencies across the country.
On behalf of the Government, the Minister officially launched the 1199 Toll-Free Line which is now in the public domain to call and report incidences of disasters and emergencies throughout the country using an Africell Sim.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper