A local NGO Hands Empowering the Less Privileged in Sierra Leone (HELP-SL), in collaboration with the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has ended a three-day sensitization of refugees and host community members in Gondama, Taiama and Jimmy Bagbo areas on environmental cleaning in refugee camps in the southern region.
The sensitization programme organized attracted over three hundred participants from the refugee camps and host communities in those areas.
Addressing participants at the various sites, the HELP-SL sited supervisor, Mrs. Janet Momoh gave a brief background of her organization, which she revealed was established in 1996.
She informed participants that the relocation of HELP-SL head office from Freetown to Bo underscores her organizations commitment to the development of rural communities in the provinces.
Mrs. Momoh reminded the host and refugee communities about their recent assessment of refugee campsites in their respective areas, disclosing that the quality of the assessment has convinced UNHCR to award them the contract.
She outlined Women’s rights, Human Security, advocacy, food security, child Protection, good governance and Policy as the four core areas of their operations.
She stressed on participatory approach as a means of empowering local communities for self-reliance.
In his statement the assistant forester in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment, Southern Province, MR. Kallon, spoke about the importance of forests in the economic and social development of communities.
He said forests as natural vegetation provides food; fuel wood, foreign exchange, medicine and employment. Saying that ninety-one percent (91%) of Sierra Leone’s forest reserves have been devastated over the years as a result of human activities.
He called for the cooperation of the community leaders for the preservation of forestlands in their communities
Earlier, the NaCSA Environmental Monitor, Southern region, Mamakoh Demby in her statement said NaCSA as a government agency was committed to the refugee camp site cleaning and appealed to the refugees and host community leaders to fully cooperate with HELP –SL for their programme implementation.
Madam Mamakoh Demby reminded the refugees that the era of care and maintenance and organized and consolidated repatriation is now a historical fact and encouraged them all to integrate into the host communities for the benefit of posterity.
HELP-SL assistant site supervisor Madam Francess in her contribution outlined the criteria for recruitment of a fifty-member work force for the campsite cleaning exercise.
She stressed that permanent residence in the host and refugee communities, good mannerism, physical fitness, and community development orientations, as well as possession of team spirit were the prerequisite for selection of membership of the work force.
She further revealed that refugees who have already integrated into the local communities or have registered for local integration should also be considered for recruitment.
She appealed to the community and refugee leaders to be very mindful about those criteria in their selections.
The Paramount chiefs in the host communities expressed concern over the delay by NaCSA in handing over their lands that are being systematically destroyed on a daily basis by the refugees for charcoal production.
They appealed to NaCSA to fast track the return of their lands to them.
The HELP-SL Assistant Environmental supervisors, Allen A.R.Mimoh and Victor Momoh of Taiama and Jimmy Bagbo refugee camps witnessed the sensitization sessions respectively.
By Saffa Moriba in Kenema