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Sierra Leone children enjoy 'remarkable' progress since end of war - UN envoy

Sierra Leone children enjoy 'remarkable' progress since end of war - UN envoy

Olara Otunnu briefs the press on visit
The United Nations envoy for war-affected children today said there had been a "remarkable transformation" in Sierra Leone's efforts to deal with challenges facing the nation's youngsters in the aftermath of years of conflict.

“The most striking impression of my visit to Sierra Leone is the remarkable transformation which has taken place in the country, in barely the space of a year-and-a-half since the ending of conflict,” the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, told the press at UN Headquarters in New York.

He said the change was evident in the peace and security enjoyed throughout the country, the displaced persons returning to their homes, free and fair elections and the resurgence of commerce in various parts of the country among other things.

Mr. Otunnu had been in Sierra Leone from 22 to 28 February to assess the impact of the country's decade-long conflict on children and progress made since the end of the war. During his visit, the Special Representative met with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, government officials and senior staff of the UN peacekeeping mission.

Compared to his previous visits to Sierra Leone, Mr. Otunnu said many children were in smart uniforms attending school, and were better fed and clothed. To ensure that the gains made were consolidated and sustained, he urged the international community not to shift their attention from Sierra Leone.

"It would be very unfortunate if precisely at a time when one is beginning to see tangible results, and when Sierra Leone is well-poised to really now consolidate on the peace and make this project sustainable, if the international community at this moment abandons Sierra Leone and the children of Sierra Leone," he said.