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Sierra Leone

Youth Partner

Name: Sheriff Parker
Age: 27
Nationality: Sierra Leonean
Affiliated Organization:

UNFPA, Director of Mabulum-nu Agricultural and Community Development Association (MADA)


Sheriff Parker was a combatant with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the eleven-year war in Sierra Leone. At the initial stage of the peace process he headed the RUF delegation from the North for peace negotiations with the Government and with mediation by the UN.

Sheriff developed a project (MADA) supported by the UN to reintegrate ex-combatants, many of whom spent most of their adolescent lives as forced conscripts into the war. The overall aim of the project is to enhance human and social security in Sierra Leone by using HIV prevention and promotion of reproductive health as a tool for social cohesion and reconstruction among ex-combatants youth.

With the support of UNFPA, Sheriff has coordinated many activities, including peer leadership training on HIV prevention, a reproductive Health and RH literacy programme for illiterate adolescents, a workshop on HIV prevention strategies and vulnerability issues, and a training on gender, culture and human rights dimensions of HIV/AIDS and counselling. In addition to HIV prevention, Sheriff supervises farming activities among ex-combatants of crops such as rice, maize, and groundnuts that are grown especially for the creation of seed banks.

Sheriff is grateful to Bangladesh for their support for the MADA project. One of his role models is Sheik Mujibur Rahman, the father of the Bangladeshi Nation. Sheriff describes himself as brave, strong, and intelligent, and believes strongly in dignity in labour.


UNFPA in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has been the ground for extreme violence and displacement on a massive scale for more than eleven years, after a series of coups by rebel faction groups and subsequent repression by the Government. Rape, torture, killing and maiming were routine occurrences in the capital city, Freetown. The violence was gradually brought to a lull through a UN mediated dialogue between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Government. However, the chaos left behind following the war was a fertile breeding ground for the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially among soldiers and peacekeeping forces. HIV prevention is not yet a standard part of all humanitarian interventions and that many vulnerable populations are difficult to reach due to the lack of infrastructure and health systems in crisis-affected countries.

Offering testimony about his work in war-torn Sierra Leone, Dr. Mamadou Diallo, the UNFPA Sierra Leone representative, said that a prevalence survey conducted recently by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found HIV in 4.9 per cent of people of reproductive age, just as the country is emerging from a decade-long conflict. "The country is on the brink of a full-blown epidemic, denoted by 5 per cent infected," said Dr. Diallo. He pointed out that the war had been one of the most brutal on the planet, with the warring factions employing large-scale rape and abduction of women and girls as a weapon of war as well as amputation of limbs by machete. An exodus of skilled health workers has exacerbated the impact. "Nothing is left standing in Sierra Leone except hope," Dr. Diallo said. The war has destroyed the basic infrastructure in the country and there is no such thing as a health care system. At the same time, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of girls and women were abducted and raped during the war, and many end up in big towns as commercial sex workers," Diallo said.

UNFPA and other UN agencies and NGO partners are working in Sierra Leone to provide life-saving information, services and skills to three vulnerable groups: girls and women who were abducted and raped during the conflict, war affected youth, and UN peacekeepers and uniformed personnel. The programmes are limited to the Capital Freetown but the government would like to expand them to all major towns. In particular, UNFPA is supporting a local NGO, called "Women in Crisis", that is helping women and girls who have been forced into the sex trade. The group has set up two shelters where women and girls learn how to protect themselves against HIV and how to earn a living through income-generation activities. Hopefully, these skills will enable them to turn their situation around and will empower them to build a better life.


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