Sunday July 18, 2004

By Sampson Cole
 A lot of progress has been made but, our children
are still faced with huge challenges,” the UNICEF
representative Abouacry Tall commented at the official
launching ceremony of the ?child friendly’ version of
“the convention on the right of the child” held
yesterday at the British Council auditorium.

Sierra Leone KIDS

Re-echoing the words of the UNICEF Executive Director,
Carol Bellamy, ?children are still forced to serve as
soldiers, children orphaned by AIDS are abandon by
society and millions of children die from preventable
diseases. The rights of these children need to be our
highest priority. They need a healthy start in life,
quality basic education and a safe loving environment
in which to thrive.”

 He added that Sierra Leone, as we
quite well know, lost a whole decade, as a result of
the civil conflict. However as we move forward in this
transition process from recovery to development, it is
but incumbent upon each and every one of us to ensure
that the needs of the next generation are met;
immunization, HIV and AIDS prevention, access to
quality basic education, protection from abused,
violence, exploitation and discrimination among
others, should be a priority in the national agenda.
He disclosed that the Government and its development
partners are in the final stages of the draft of the
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), which will
serve as a development, plan of this country for the
next three years.

 Sierra Leone’s PRSP could be among
the first, if not the first to include children and
their rights as a pillar in the PRSP as well as put
resources in the promotion of child health, increased
access to school and better protection against abuse.
He explained, another issue to be given due
consideration is the passage of the Child Rights Bill
and its adaptation into the laws of Sierra Leone,
adding that since the key players, Ministers of
Justice and Social Welfare Gender and Children’s
Affairs are present, shows that tremendous effort have
been made by the government in this direction, he went
on. Infact, more recently UNICEF has supported the
government in the recruitment of an international
Consultant to work with two ministries to put together
a draft children’s bill for passage through parliament
by December 2004.

 He further explained that the child
friendly version of the CRC, which they are launching
today, calls on various players to take up the
challenge of ensuring the survival and development of
every Sierra Leonean child. Mr. Tall said that it must
be understood that though the government has a role to
play in providing adequate learning and health care
facilities, it is required of parents that they ensure
that children grow up in a loving and caring family
environment. “You need to ensure that your children
both boys and girls go to school, especially now that
education at least basic education up to Junior
Secondary School is free.

 Every child has the right to
be educated,” he maintained. He went on, “in this
direction UNICEF in collaboration with other NGO’s is
supporting the government in the establishment of what
has been termed “Pavilion Schools” in remote and hard
to reach areas to ensure that every child is provided
with access to learning environment. The UNICEF
representative reiterated, that parent also have the
responsibility to ensure that their children are
vaccinated- “vaccination is free,” he stressed. He
explained that over the past two years 90% of pre-war
facilities have been rehabilitated, and it is our duty
as parent or guardian to make sure that our children
are fully immunized up to DPT3, adding that according
to the recent Human Development Index Sierra Leone has
the highest child mortality rate in the world 316 per
1000 live births.

 Mr. Tall admonished parents to share
the fish and meat with the children, as they need it
more than adults.



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