During his mission, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, assessed progress made as well as new challenges facing the nation's children in the aftermath of conflict.
Sierra Leone had undergone a "dramatic transformation" with the restoration of peace and security throughout the country, Mr. Otunnu said, citing the close collaboration between the government, the UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMSIL), the UN Country Team and civil society as contributing factors.
The Special Representative also said, however, that tremendous challenges were ahead, uppermost being the inadequate education sector and the dire needs of those disabled by the war. He also noted that the extensive use of children as labour in diamond mining, preventing their schooling.
With children all over the country expressing their desire to attend school, Mr. Otunnu said a major effort is needed by Government and international partners to improve on enrolment rates and conditions in schools.
"The tremendous dynamism, intelligence and creativity of Sierra Leonean children - despite their terrible suffering during the war - is among the nation's hidden strengths," Mr. Otunnu said. "We must invest in these children."
He also stressed that every effort must be made to harness the children's potential and to engage them actively and constructively in the reconstruction process, including the speedy adoption and concerted implementation of national youth policy and programs.