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Minister Joe Costello announces €50,000 in funding to support former Child Soldiers

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD, today announced €50,000 to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

The funding will allow for the expansion of Caritas’ programme to provide counselling and vocational training to former child soldiers.

Minister Costello said:

“During the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, it is estimated that 10,000 children were forcibly recruited to fight. These children were often given drugs and forced to commit atrocities, while girls were systematically sexually abused. Many of these children were not reunited with their families after the war, or were rejected by their communities when the war ended.

“For these young people who have suffered terribly, the opportunity to access trauma counselling and to learn vocational skills is critical. Today I saw how Caritas’ programme is working to rehabilitate and re-integrate former child soldiers when I visited a welder’s shop, a tailoring service, and a restaurant, all run by entrepreneurs trained by Caritas during and after the war.

“The €50,000 in funding which I have announced for the next two years will enable Caritas to reach more vulnerable young people by extending the programme to more towns and villages. The funding will also strengthen the mental health and trauma counselling component of the programme which has been under-funded for some time.”

Minister Costello also visited St. Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni where he saw a school-feeding programme, implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) and supported by Irish Aid. Since 2010, Ireland has provided €2.75 million to the WFP in support of the programme.

Minister Costello said:

“Through Ireland’s contribution to the national school feeding programme, more than 118,000 students - half of whom are girls – now receive a daily school meal. In addition, 650 tonnes of the food that Sierra Leonean school children are eating this year will all be purchased from local farmers in the region, thus contributing to their livelihoods.”

Minister Costello also visited an Agricultural Business Centre in Maforki and met representatives from smallholder farmers groups’ in Momoya Village.