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Edward Turay, Blyden hit London Chatham House

Edward Turay, Blyden hit London Chatham House

Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom has commended youths of Sierra Leone saying they are in the thick of the national fight to eradicate Ebola in Sierra Leone and to revamp the country’s devastated economy.

Edward Mohamed Turay was speaking at the Youth conference organised by the Youth Division of the Commonwealth under the theme: “The Socioeconomic Consequences of Ebola in Sierra Leone: Challenges and Prospects for Youth,” at the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

He said government acknowledges the role of youths towards the socio-economic development of the country and that was why the President established the Youth Commission and the Youth Centre at Masiaka.

The High Commissioner said President Ernest Bai Koroma recently applauded the kind gesture of the people of Sengbeh Chiefdom, Koinadugu District for donating a thousand acres of land for the establishment of a National Youth Village to be operated as a centre of excellence for skills training of young people of all levels.

“We need their input in this time of crisis – and indeed they actively participate in the eradication of the Ebola Virus disease – they engage in the areas of Sanitation, Youth Employment Schemes, by creating national youth forum in Masiaka,” said High Commissioner.

Youth Conference

He said the impact of Ebola on youths is visibly a fearful phenomenon for their future with schools, colleges and universities closed down since the start of the outbreak, adding that the lockout did not only affect the major economic sectors, but also small businesses, agricultural projects and a host of other activities in the country.

“Sierra Leone is a nation of young people – and they constitute a third of the population – that is – ages between 15 – 35 – the economic impact on our Youths was devastating,” he disclosed.

Dr. Sylvia Blyden, former Special Executive Assistant to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who represented Sierra Leone as an activist, also praised the leadership qualities of her former boss and described his Agenda for Prosperity programme as a ‘Perfect Blueprint’ for Sierra Leone that addressed pertinent areas for youth development in Sierra Leone.

She said President Koroma has appointed youths into strategic positions and that no other Sierra Leonean leader has demonstrated such commitment and empowerment of youths than the current President in the history of Sierra Leone.

“The empowerment of youths under the present leadership has been unprecedented in Sierra Leone,” she said and called on Britain and the rest of the International Community to rally behind the current Government in Sierra Leone after the Ebola crisis.

She described the Ebola situation in Sierra Leone as ‘extraordinary’ and paid tribute to nurses and other health care workers particularly Pauline Cafferkey, the British nurse who was rushed out of Sierra Leone after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone – and currently admitted at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

“We cannot sit by idly in Freetown or London and not be concerned about what happens in Kissi Teng in the Kailahun District. A lack of health care anywhere is a threat to healthcare everywhere,” Blyden said.

Layne Robinson of the Commonwealth Secretariat said one in three Sierra Leoneans is a young person and believes the youths are the future leaders who will have to shape the future of Sierra Leone.

Robinson was encouraged that young people are part and parcel of shaping the future of Sierra Leone and disclosed that the Commonwealth will be organising a meeting of youth ministers in February this year.

Also making a statement yesterday was George Hodson of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who spoke about Britain’s role towards the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone which includes providing £230million and creating health centres as well as free laboratories for health workers from the United Kingdom to travel to Sierra Leone and the provision of 14, 000 beds for Ebola victims.

The programme was chaired by Alex Vines on behalf of Chatham House.

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