Sierra leone sets up national commission for war-affected children

(Freetown, 29 April, UN-DPI) – The Government of Sierra Leone has agreed to establish a National Commission for War-Affected Children to ensure that the concerns of children are translated into policy-making, priority-setting and resource allocation at the highest political level in the current phase of peace consolidation and national reconstruction.

Agreement was reached on the establishment of the Commission during the visit to Freetown on 29-30 April of UN Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Mr. Lloyd Axworthy, Foreign Minister of Canada. Under-Secretary-General Otunnu and Minister Axworthy traveled to Sierra Leone immediately following the Conference on War-Affected Children, held in Accra 27-28 April, and co-sponsored by the Governments of Ghana and Canada.

During their stay, Mr. Otunnu and Mr. Axworthy visited the Murray Town Amputee and War Wounded Camp, which houses approximately 1,000 residents, including140 child and adult amputees and about 180 war-wounded. They also traveled to an Interim Child Care Centre at St. Michael’s Lodge, 14 miles from Freetown, where 150 children under the age of 18, many of whom are former child soldiers and others are children who have been separated from their families due to the war, are provided with psycho-social counseling and vocational and educational training.

Mr. Otunnu and Mr. Axworthy also held separate meetings with President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Lt. Colonel (Rtd ) Johnny Paul Koroma of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and Corporal Foday Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to convey the results of the Accra Conference, to stress the need for special measures to address the plight of the war-affected children of Sierra Leone and to assess progress in implementation of the Lome Peace Accord.

During the visit, a letter of understanding was signed between Minister Axworthy and Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Sama Banya to cooperate on the establishment and operation of the National Commission for War-Affected Children, to which Canada committed $250,000. The allocation is to be used to support activities towards the establishment of the structure, mandate, composition and modalities of the Commission, as well as starting the process of its operationalization.