State pledges €50,000 for former child soldiers
CONOR POPE in Freetown
ON THE second day of his week-long visit to west Africa, the Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, announced that the Government is to donate €50,000 to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone.
The funding will allow for the expansion of a cross-charity programme which provides counselling and vocational training to former child soldiers.
During the civil war, about 10,000 children were forcibly recruited to fight. These children were often given drugs and forced to commit atrocities, while girls were systematically sexually abused. After the war, many were not reunited with their families.
Mr Costello visited the Caritas Centre in Sierra Leone’s fourth largest city, Makeni, and met a dozen victims of the civil war who told of their harrowing experiences during the decade-long conflict which ended in 2002.
“For these young people who have suffered terribly, the opportunity to access trauma counselling and to learn vocational skills is critical,” the Minister said.
Mr Costello also visited St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired, which is run by Sr Mary Sweeny, an Irish nun from the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny Order.
While there, he saw a school-food programme, implemented by the World Food Programme and supported by Irish Aid. Since 2010, Ireland has provided €2.75 million to the food programme. Mr Costello made an unscheduled donation of €5,000, which will be used to extend school facilities.