This study explored various cross border phenomena with the objective to understand how the emergence of COVID-19 impacted the cross-border chiefdom communities of Kailahun, Pujehun and Falaba
A quantitative and qualitative methodological approach was employed to carry out this survey. Data collection was carried out in twelve chiefdoms across the three districts, and four chiefdoms per district. The survey targeted cross-border residents and migrants through focus group discussions, direct observation and key informants interviews focusing on local leaders, representative of migrants associations, and local business owners. The mixed methods employed in methodological approaches helped in carefully detailing the different types of consequences of covid-19 on the cross-border communitites.
Like in many other countries affected by COVID-19, this study confirmed that most official points of entry (PoEs) were closed during the border closure proclamation approved by the government (March to July 2020). The regulations instituted by the government severely restricted movements and local by-laws in the various communities became an integral component to the COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
A key factor central to this study was the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19: the study noted that community inhabitants, including host communities and migrant residents, faced intense socioeconomic disruptions and for many, recovery from it has been slow and partial. Additionally, COVID-19 increased security and protection concerns around vulnerable inhabitants.
The study collected information on both official and unofficial points of entry, and confirmed that mobility inflows and outflows from Sierra Leone to Liberia and from Sierra Leone and Guinea following the re-opening of borders is high. While the occurrence of regular and orderly cross-border movements is vital for peace and stability in communities from the three countries, the presence of a weak border management system and functional infrastructure, as well as appropriate covid-19 management measures could remain challenging to border communities. As a way of mitigating these challenges, a couple of recommendations were highlighted. (1) Increase donor engagement: the three districts, Kailahun, Pujehun and Falaba, lack substantial socioeconomic livelihood supports. One way these locations could overcome the pains imposed by COVID-19 is for an increase donor concentration in these locations with socio-economic livelihood supports. This support needs to be tailored towards trade and agriculture in particular, as they are the major occupation for majority of the inhabitants. This would contribute in easing the extreme livelihood challenges imposed therein by COVID-19. (2) Increase funding for border infrastructure and management: As it is presently, there is a need for a support with new physical border infrastructure (border post) at points of entry in these districts. This would contribute towards cross-border security and substantial control of disease emanating from neighboring countries.