Carolina Alvarez Pusterla works in the development department at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. She is accompanying donors to see UNICEF programs in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a surprisingly young country. Close to half the population (48%) is under the age of 18. The country’s future depends on children growing up to be healthy, educated, and productive adults. However, the survival, development, and protection of a large number of children are at risk.
|A student at Koya Town Non-Formal Primary Education Center .|
Sierra Leone has some of the world’s highest child and maternal mortality rates. The country is still in transition after a 10-year civil war devastated the country, killing more than 50,000 people between 1991 and 2002.
Despite these challenges, Sierra Leone is demonstrating significant positive trends, presenting a leading example of robust post-conflict reconstruction, with political stability and democracy – and the potential for economic progress.
In Sierra Leone, UNICEF is instrumental in influencing policy, legislative, and administrative reforms aimed at upholding and strengthening child protection. UNICEF is also building partnerships to increase awareness of children’s rights including mobilizing community support, and leveraging the resources to expand UNICEF program’s scope and effectiveness. Nationwide, of the 2.4 million children in the country, 27% have been identified as vulnerable, lacking the protection of primary caregivers. Around 11% are orphans, having lost one or both parents. Children who don’t live with their parents are more at risk for abuse, violence and exploitation. UNICEF is supporting the capacity of institution and communities to deliver care in the best interest of children.
During our time in Freetown, Tombo, and Waterloo, we will visit a wide variety of lifesaving programs including the largest maternity facility in the country, a peripheral health unit, a community football league and an alternative (short-term) care center that protects vulnerable children including child victims of abuse.
As I embark on what will truly be an unforgettable journey (filled with torrential rains!), I look forward to meeting the inspiring children and families directly benefitting from UNICEF’s remarkable work. All of which would not be possible without the incredible support and commitment of our donors.