By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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ABUJA, Nigeria, April 16, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- ECOWAS plans to deploy 40 volunteers to Sierra Leone to support the country's health and education sectors.

To this end, a delegation of the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme (EVP) Regional Office, led by the Director of the ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre in Ouagadougou, Mr. Francis Chuks Ajoagwani has just-ended a four-day visit in Sierra Leone 8-12 April 2013 to fast-track the process.

The ECOWAS team met with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; Ministry of Health and Sanitation; Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Sports, as well as representatives of civil society organizations and the UNDP/UNV, the technical partners to the EVP.

Mr. Njoaguani described the outcome of the visit as “encouraging,” adding that “there is greater certainty that ECOWAS Volunteers will be deployed to Sierra Leone in the next 30 days.”

The EVP Regional Coordinator, Mr. Ibrahim Ouedraogo, said the mission has helped regain the commitment of all the key stakeholders, especially the primary beneficiary ministries.

The first batch of 20 volunteers earmarked for the Ministry of Education is expected to arrive in the country by end of April 2013 and the remaining volunteers for the Health sector, by the first week of May.

The Deputy Minister 1, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Osmond Hanciles pledged the full commitment of the ministry to the programme.

“We must reassure that we will not fail on the commitment made by our Head of State when Sierra Leone was selected as one of the four lucky countries for the pilot phase of the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme,” he added.

Also during the delegation's courtesy call on her, the Minister of Health, Mrs. Miatta Kargbo stressed the importance of the ECOWAS Volunteers' contribution to the country's development particularly the health sector.

“By embracing the innovation that ECOWAS Volunteers will bring into the country, we will be able to write a success story for the country,” she added.

The demand for young qualified professionals is very high in the region, and a programme such as the EVP has the prospect of making greater impact with increased funding.

The ECOWAS teams also held a stakeholders' consultative meeting with members of the National Coordination Council (NCC), chaired by the Head of the ECOWAS National Unit, which is charged with the successful implementation of the Programme.

Before departing Sierra Leone, the ECOWAS team also visited the Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Alhaji Foday Mansaray, who hosts the EVP National Coordination Offices, for a debriefing session.

The Minister pledged to personally liaise with his colleagues to ensure effective implementation of the Programme.

ECOWAS Volunteers are young men and women professionals from the 15 Member States, who contribute to development efforts and consolidation of peace and reconstruction in crisis affected-communities of the region.

The EVP currently covers four countries under the pilot phase, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.

The volunteers commit to serve and demonstrate an ability to adapt to different and at times difficult conditions.

Most of them are teachers and health workers deployed to different communities where they help to strengthen the capacities of local organizations, establish and support partnerships between communities, promote a culture of peace, gender equality, network and collaborate with other development partners.

The Programme is expected to be scaled up and expanded ultimately to cover all ECOWAS Member States