The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) of Sierra Leone have had an outstanding partnership for youth empowerment over the years and still counting even through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) catastrophe. Sierra Leone, like many other nations around the world came to a standstill as COVID-19 hit the country in March 2020. The country’s workforce and the already fragile economy was hard hit.
With almost half of its population falling under the youthful bracket, coupled with high levels of unemployment and unemployability among the workforce, the threats and indeed the impact of COVID-19 seems to be graver on the country’s young people.
Worsened by increase in rural-urban migration, Western Area harbors a large population of vulnerable youth who are commonly found working in the informal sector that has been destroyed by COVID-19, they live on hand-to-mouth incomes and find shelter and solace in places locally known as slums, Ghettos, Ataya bases, the streets, and other youth hangouts. With their avenues to survival hampered by the pandemic, NAYCOM, mandated to support the development of young people for national development considered it necessary to support these youth. NAYCOM sought help for an intervention from its main funding partner UNDP through the Sustainable Livelihoods cluster.
Together, the partners devised a plan to support the youth through their locally organized leadership structures. The intervention package comprised: livelihood support through the provision of assorted dry food items- bags of rice, onions, condiments, vegetable cooking oil and hygiene kits as well as infection-prevention materials; to help mobilize the youths as champions of the fight against COVID-19 through sensitization in their communities, the partners provided vital COVID-19 information, education and communication materials including flyers and loudspeakers for their community engagement activities.
“UNDP is pleased to make this support to NAYCOM because we are aware of the constraints young people are facing during this difficult period…many of you cannot engage in your daily activities because of the restrictions posed by the COVID” said Mrs. Tanzila Watta Sankoh, the UNDP in Sierra Leone Sustainable Livelihoods cluster Team Lead during the handover ceremony.
NAYCOM’s Commissioner Ngolo Katta said to UNDP and the youth who witnessed the handing over of the items that the support is to cushion impact from the coronavirus on vulnerable youth and to continue engaging youth in the absence of the Commission and UNDP’s regular youth programs due to the COVID-19’s disruption.
Mustapha Karim a youth from ‘Under stick’ bus halt said, they were happy for the support towards young people during this difficult time. “They say, a hungry man is an angry man, but this kind of interventions will help reduce the tensions in our communities due to coronavirus”.
143 distribution points in Western Area Rural and Western Area Urban were identified for the donation, these include: Friends of the dead, Under Stick, Bus Halt car wash, Congo Town bridge, Under Bridge Brookfields, Josben Car Watch, Red pump, Hill cut, Back of Old School, Zion Station Wilberforce, Oilers, Stone Ground Spur Loop, Bonga Town Off Wilkinson Road, Kabba Drive, Fourah Bay, Lumley, Ogoo Farm, Songa, Fullah Mosque Waterloo, Mile 13, and Waterloo among others.
Up to 1,000 youths will benefit from this support. They are very grateful.