LOSING ENTIRE GENERATION TO DRUGS, IF…
-As Gov’t & UN Reaffirm Commitment To Sustained Partnership for At-Risk Youth Programme
MONROVIA-One in five youth in Liberia is a user of narcotic substances, and many more are at risk of addiction.
To avoid the risk of losing an entire generation of young people to drugs and to help them realize their full potential, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Youth & Sports, in collaboration with the United Nations and other stakeholders, has developed a Multi-year, multi-sectorial, Programme for addressing the needs of At-Risk Youth.
The 10-year programme aims to rehabilitate, empower and reintegrate At-Risk Youth into their communities as healthy, productive and engaged citizens.
On June 30, 2022, under the leadership of President George M. Weah, the government launched a fund drive to support this programme. The event saw commitments from several key stakeholders, including the Government of Liberia, who pledged US$1 million to start the programme.
Since then, efforts have been underway by the government and the UN Agencies to move ahead with this critical initiative. On August 4, a week before International Day of the Youth and on August 12, a high-level preparatory meeting was held to agree on the next steps of this initiative.
The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. D. Zeogar Wilson, and attended by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., Health Minister, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs. Williametta Saydee-Tarr, and Assistant Minister of Justice, Attorney Edrick F. Noah as well as the UN Resident Coordinator, Niels Scott, UNFPA Representative, Bidisha Pillai, UNICEF Representative Laila Gad, UNDP Representative, Stephen Rodrigues, and WHO Representative, Dr. Clement Peter.
The leaders agreed that this was a real opportunity to focus on some of the most marginalized young people in Liberia over a long-term period and would be game-changing for the future of this nation.
They also agreed that a High-level National Steering Committee would be established with representatives from the government, UN, Development Partners, CSOs, and youth themselves. This Steering Committee will provide leadership and oversight for the programme.
They further agreed on forming a Technical Working Group that will provide technical oversight for the development and implementation of the Programme and a Secretariat to support the overall coordination of the programme.
“The increasing number of young people on drugs and the number of youths living in the streets means that a whole generation might not reach their full potential,” said Youth and Sports Minister Wilson during the opening address.
Minister Wilson said it was critical for the government and the UN to agree on the program development and implementation framework to ensure synergy and avoid duplication of efforts.
The United Nations UN Liberia Resident Coordinator, Niels Scott, who also spoke during the opening of the meeting, said the UN welcomed the bilateral engagement with the Government of Liberia to improve the condition of young people, especially the At-Risk population.
Mr. Scott called for a Multi-Partners Trust Fund to allow for a transparent collaboration and coordination framework in the programme’s implementation.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., said that there is a need to ensure that all interventions that are targeted for At-Risk Youth from drugs must be brought under this national governing structure. He reiterated the commitment of the President and the Government to prioritize this area over the next ten years.
The Ministry of Health shared a detailed presentation on the work needed for the treatment and recovery of substance users and emphasized the need to strengthen and have more treatment centers.
The participants agreed that setting up the respective programme implementation framework is the next step.