Parenting Education Programs and Mandated Parents in United States of America

Parenting  Education Programs (PEPs) in the US are designed to preserve family, promote family reunification, builds on family strengths to care for children, and enhance child well-being: address children’s physical health, mental health, and education needs and ensure that “families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs” (Child Welfare Act 1980, P.L. 96-272). In addition, PEPs are mandatory in forty-six states in the US intended to improve children’s adjustment to the separation and/or divorce of their parents (Sigal, Sandler, Wolchik, and Braver, 2008; Pollet and Lombreglia, 2008). It is estimated that about 850,000 families in the U.S. participate in voluntary or court-mandated parent education programs each year (Johnson, Stone, Lou, Ling, Claassen, & Austin 2006).

Mandated parents are primary care givers or parents of children authorized by law or the court system to attending parenting programs conducted in several states across US. According to  (U.S. DHHS data cited by Barth et al., 2005), about 400,000 parents in the child welfare services system participate in voluntary or mandated parent training each year. The three categories of parents, families or primary care givers mandated to attend parenting programs include:

Mandatory parenting education for a voluntary role

                            This category includes the training of foster and adoptive parents. Individuals who express an interest in adopting or fostering children are required to attend training in order to gain legal caregiver status. Federal guidelines require foster parents to participate in training programs as part of the licensing process, and that requirement is supported by legislation in all but two states (Chamberlain et al., 2008; Dorsey et al., 2008). Laws differ in the various states but individuals should be at least 21 years to be eligible for being a foster parent. Moreover, foster parents must pass criminal and Child Protective Services (CPS) background checks, and they must have a regular source of income (Bigner, 2010). The t types of foster care include: Traditional/regular foster care – is the provision of basic care and support for children on their way to permanent placements, while “treatment foster care” is designed for the needs of behaviorally disturbed children and youth and includes additional training and financial support for the foster parents (Dorsey et al., 2008). In 2008, there were 463,000 children in foster care in the United States, and 123,000 children were adopted (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2009). In 2003, there were 155,355 non-relative foster homes licensed to care for those children (Van Camp, 2004), but there is a chronic shortage of placements available for children who need such care.

Education for risky family situations

This category of parents and families mandated for parenting education includes divorcing couples. Some judicial provinces in the US have a blanket mandate that involves all couples with children in a particular municipality, county, or state who are filing for a divorce must participate in a PEP. Other mandates are issued only to divorcing couples with contested custody or visitation cases. In other cases, judges may issue individual mandates to couples those who are judged to be at risk for family conflict or repeated court involvement (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). In 2009 an estimated 1,100,401 children under 18 in the U.S. lived with parents who became divorced that year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Twenty nine percent (29%) of those parents are men and 30% are women between the ages of 35 and 44 years. Also, 64% of these parents or families are White, non-Hispanic (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). Also, a survey found that 65% of divorcing parent programs are comprised of mandated attendees (Cambron et al., 2000). The high levels of conflict and aggression associated with the minority of divorcing couples/parent remains the primary concern of many courts and community agencies and has led to the rapid growth of mandated family life or PEPs in the US Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008).

                        Mandated education for parents or families judged as inadequate

                          Probation departments or judges may require parents who are found to be abusive and/ or neglectful of their children to participate in PEPs. Other families in this category are parents involved in domestic violence cases or parents of children in the juvenile justice system (Judith A. Myers-Walls, 2008). Parents may need to complete PEP in order to maintain or regain custody of their children or sometimes the education is an alternative to a fine or incarceration. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, (2010) stated that, in 2008, CPS workers investigated 2 million cases of child abuse and neglect involving 3.7 million children across the US. It is also reported that about 1,740 children died in 2008 as result of maltreatment. Children under 1 year of age were the most common victims. Sixty percent (60%) of the cases were due to neglect. About 80% of the perpetrators were found to be the child’s parents and 90% were the biological parents, and slightly more than 75% were under age 40 (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, (DHHS), 2010).

                      The realities of mandated parents.

Divorcing couples involve in PEPs are faced with financial strain, relocation of at least one family member, anger, perceptions of failure, loss, defeat and children are caught up in the middle of these parents. Economic hardship caused parents to be less supportive of their children. (Barrera et al., 2002; Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). In addition, parents come with diverse risk and socio-cultural factors such as family stress and maternal distress (Winslow, Bonds, Wolchik, Sandler and Braver, 2009). According to Pollet & Lombreglia, (2008), many parents who divorced in 2008 especially the women lived under the poverty level: 11% of men and 22% of women. Furthermore, other researchers stated that mandated parent also bring with them low income earning, lack of transport and child care; unemployment and unstable work schedules; maternal distress, homelessness, inadequate understanding of the legal system, mistrust in service providers and varying degrees of mental issues (Coatsworth et al., 2006; Cunningham et al., 2000; Haggerty et al., 2002).

Impact of Parenting Education Programs

Most PEPs for divorcing parents contribute to lowering parental conflict and improving child outcomes while those for abusive parents are focus on teaching developmental stages and improving child rearing competencies and techniques for managing or altering children’s inappropriate behavior and thereby attempting to reduce the likelihood that the child will experience more negative outcomes (Incredible Years, 2009; McMahon, 2006). Parents indicated that they learned something new and that they appreciated the program (Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1996; Brandon, 2006; Whitehurst, O’Keefe, & Wilson, 2008). Parents reports that they have changed their behavior, were not sending messages to the other parent through the children and not fighting or arguing in front of the children (Brandon, 2006), saying they have a more positive relationship with the other parent (Whitehurst et al., 2008), or adjusting to the divorce better after the program (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). Whitehurst and colleagues (2008) found that parents who participated in PEPs rated their relationships more positively, improved their co-parenting abilities more, and more successfully lowered their maladaptive behaviors.

                       The Challenge.           

Notwithstanding the impact made by PEPs conducted in different part of the US, they are mostly delivered to comply with federal policy goals of promoting family strength and child wellbeing without regard to the specific needs of the parent or child (Sheryl Dicker, 2010).  PEPs are often “one-size-fits-all” and therefore do not address the varying needs of parents because they mostly only have a single focus (Katherine A., Beckmann, Jane Knitzer, Janice, Cooper, Sheryl Dicker, 2010).

                        Recommendations.

Various researchers submitted that PEPs should be more comprehensively designed to assess and seek to address the plethora of other needs of mandated parents if conflicts, mental issues and child maltreatment and abuse are to be eliminated and or minimized among divorcing and abusive mandated parents (Myers-Walls et al., 2009). Barth et al., (2005) stated that mandated parents should be thoroughly assessed to understand the underlying causes of their problems to better be able to serve them. Shannon (n.d.) stated that PEPs aimed at abusive and neglectful parents and parents of children in the juvenile justice system should incorporate the following best practices to prevent child abuse

a. Target as many risk factors affecting the child and parent

b. Impact knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations of participants.

c. Improve the quality of the leaders and parent educators is critical

d. Work with other agencies as appropriate to facilitate accurate referral to increase access to other needed services

e. Tailor the services to meet the particular needs of individual participants as appropriate

In relation to the above, my submission is that both federal and state governments need to collaborate with agencies providing PEP services and other community resources providing needed services to revise the PEP curricula to cater for the above mention recommendation if PEPs are to be holistic and meet the needs of mandated parents.

Please note that the words in the reference section adds up to the total of words shown in this blog.

References

Barth, R. P., Landsverk, J., Chamberlain, P., Reid, J. B., Rolls, J. A., Hurlburt, M. S., (2005). Parent-training    programs in child welfare services: Planning for a more evidence-based approach to serving biological parents. Research on Social Work Practice, 15(5), 353–371.

Barlow, J.; Coren, E.; Stewart-Brown, S. (2009). Parent-training programs for Improving maternal psychosocial health Review). The Cochrane Library, II.

Cooper, J.; Masi, R.; Dababnah, S.; Aratani, Y.; Knitzer, J., (2007). Unclaimed children revisited working paper No. 2: strengthening policies to support children, youth, and families who experience trauma. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Barth, R. P., Landsverk, J., Chamberlain, P., Reid, J. B., Rolls, J. A., Hurlburt, M. S., (2005). Parent-training programs in  child welfare services: Planning for a more evidence-based approach to serving biological parents. Research on  Social Work Practice, 15(5), 353–371.

Barlow, J.; Coren, E.; Stewart-Brown, S. 2009. Parent-training Programs for Improving maternal psychosocial health (Review). The Cochrane Library, II.

Cooper, J.; Masi, R.; Dababnah, S.; Aratani, Y.; Knitzer, J.,  (2007). Unclaimed children revisited working paper No. 2: strengthening policies to support children, youth, and families who experience trauma. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). Marital events of American: 2009: American community survey reports. Retrieved fro http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-13.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009).  Adoption and foster care analysis and reporting system (AFCARS) FY 2008 data (October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008). Retrieved from: http://www.afterschool.ed.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report16.htm

This entry was posted on April 14, 2014. 1 Comment

Child Labor: A Menace on Sierra Leonean Children

Child Labor in Sierra Leone

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) website, definitions of Child labour slated for abolition falls into the following three categories:

(1)  Labour that is performed by a child who is under the minimum age specified for that kind of work (as defined by national legislation, in accordance with accepted international standards), and that is thus likely to impede the child’s education and full development.

(2)  Labour that jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, known as hazardous work.

(3)  The unconditional worst forms of child labour, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.

Children in Sierra Leone are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, particularly dangerous activities in the agriculture and in the mining sectors (U.S. Embassy, 2012). Reports indicate that child labor in agriculture is pervasive in rural areas, including the production of coffee, cocoa and palm oil, with children as young as age 5 working in the fields. (US Embassy, 2010; US Department of State, 2011; Macro International Inc., 2008; & Dunstan, S. Farmer Perceptions, 2009). Children in Sierra Leone are engaged in dangerous activities in agriculture. Children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides. (International Labour Organization, 2011)

Thousands of children in Sierra Leone, primarily boys ages 10 and 17 years, work in alluvial diamond mines (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). Alluvial diamond mining relies on labor-intensive methods to locate diamonds, such as digging and sifting through mud and sand.( U.S. Geological Survey, 2011) The mining is usually performed by informal and small-scale mining operations that operate outside the regulatory framework (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008).

Children engaged in alluvial diamond mining undertake hazardous activities, such as repeatedly shoveling and transporting gravel, and are exposed to infectious and mosquito-borne diseases that thrive in alluvial mining areas. (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008). The children suffer back and chest pain and fatigue as a result of the activities they perform. Children also risk injury and death from mine pits collapsing (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). One study found that nearly half of all child miners in the Kono District, the hub of Sierra Leonean diamond mining, work 8 to 10 hours per day, while more than half work at least 6 days a week (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). Although mine owners and operators typically do not employ girls or children under age 10 in direct mining activities, the mining sector utilizes these two groups in support roles. Young boys in this group generally provide food and water and take responsibility for less strenuous mining activities, while girls in support roles often work as vendors, hawking items such as drinks and cigarettes. (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008).

See video for child mining

Moreover, children in Sierra Leone are also engaged in stone crushing in granite quarries in unsafe and unhealthy labor conditions, including carrying heavy loads and working long hours. (Macro International, 2008). Children break granite rocks into gravel and sell it for use in cement. Children sustain injuries including broken bones from falls, leg and toe injuries from using mallets and hammers, and cuts and eye injuries from gravel shards. (Campbell, G., 2013).

See video for child rock harvesting

In large dump sites in Freetown, children as young as age 10 are engaged in digging and gathering metal scraps and recyclable material, among other items(U.S. Embassy, 2012; & 2013). Reports indicate that children frequent dump sites, in which they are exposed to unhealthy and dangerous labor conditions, including chemicals, and risk injury (Fofana, L., 2012)

Photo of children in dump sites

In addition, children are also engaged in the fishing industry notwithstanding the importance of this activity.( U.S Embassy, 2012 & Macro International, 2008; ). Regardless of the limited evidence that exists, Macro International, (2008) suggests that the worst forms of child labor are used in the production of particular types of fish, including snapper, mackerel, and herring. In addition to performing tasks, such as mending nets, the report also notes that children engage in the fishing industry also works on boats to fish in the open sea for several days in a row. (FAO-ILO, 2011 & Macro International, 2008). Fishing exposes children to risks, including the risk of drowning and working in cramped and unsanitary shipping vessels. (U.S. Department of State, 2009).

Regardless of the above labour issues undermining the wellbeing of children, the U.S Embassy, (2012) report indicate that Sierra Leonean children are engaged in domestic labor that commonly involves exposure to physical and sexual exploitation by their employers. Furthermore, Sierra Leone is classified as a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. (U.S. Department of State, 2009). U.S. Embassy (2011 & 2012) reports states that majority of children are trafficked from rural provinces or refugee communities to urban and mining areas and that children from Nigeria, The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea may be trafficked to Sierra Leone for forced begging, forced labor, and commercial sexual exploitation. (U.S. Department of State 2012). Sierra Leone has a large number of street children as a result of the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. (IRIN, 2011,; & ILO 2012) There are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown but it is believed that some of these children may be exploited into commercial sex work. (U.S. Department of State, 2011 #246; U.S. Embassy- Freetown, 2013, #173).

Causes and effects of Child Labour

Child labour in Sierra Lone is mostly due to cultural and tradition practices, the effects of the 10 years of civil war and entrenched poverty. The Minister of Employment ascertains this, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Minkailu Mansaray who said in an interview “poverty has been identified as one of the root causes of child labour”.  He also stated that some traditional concepts have also been identified as a problem leading to child labour. He further stated that “child labour has a very negative impact on the economic, social and political development of Sierra Leone because it allows children to suffer under worst conditions, prostitution, gang robbery and other crimes in society,”

Legal framework on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In response to the awful situation above, the Government of Sierra Leone have several legislations in place to combat child labour. The Child Rights Act, 2007, which sets the minimum, age for employment at 15 years. The Act also states that children must either be age 15 or have completed basic education before entering into an apprenticeship in either the formal or informal sector. Children are also prohibited from performing night work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. (The Child Right Act, 2007). The law allows children ages 13 and older to engage in light work and prohibits children under age 18 from being employed in hazardous work, defined as work that is dangerous to a child’s health, safety, or morals. The law identifies the following activities as hazardous: seafaring; mining and quarrying; carrying heavy loads; and working in bars, in places in which machines are used, and in environments in which chemicals are produced or used. (Child Right Act, 2007). The penalty for employing children in hazardous work or violating the age restrictions under the Child Rights Act is a fine or a prison sentence of up to 2 years( U.S. Embassy Freetown, 2013; Child Right Act, 2007).  The Child Rights Act stipulates that the Government will intervene to protect children who are forced to beg or are exposed to moral or physical danger.

Also, the Constitution of Sierra Leone prohibits forced and compulsory labor (Government of Sierra Leone , 1991). The Anti-Human Trafficking Act, (2005) criminalizes all forms of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including profiting from child pornography and prostitution. Regardless of the robust legislations, children continue to carry the burden to hard and hazardous labour in the country.

Social Programs Interventions to prevent and or eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Sierra Leone government with support from UNICEF and USAID, has prioritized and implementing several programs to curb child labour. Such programs include: improving access and to education, which has narrowed the gender enrollment gap at the primary school (IMF, 2011). The Government of Sierra Leone increased the number of teachers and awarded grants to girls and the disabled attending secondary school and university; it also investigated and prosecuted Ministry of Education personnel engaged in corrupt practices. (Human Right Watch 2011). The government with WFP, implements a school-feeding program that targets 300,000 children (IMF, 2008). Also, the MSWGCA partners with World Hope International to combat child trafficking and forced child labor in Sierra Leone in addition to raising public awareness on child trafficking. The government also supports shelters that house child victims of forced labor and trafficking. However, these shelters do not provide victims with long-term support, and child victims may live with social workers. (UN Committee on the Right of the Child, 2011). The Government supports centers for street children to receive psychological support, medical care, vocational training, and help in locating their families.

In addition, the government supports the UNDP-funded Youth Employment and Empowerment Program to strengthen national policy, strategy, and coordination for youth employment. The Youth Employment Network, which includes a partnership between the UN, ILO and the World Bank, manages the Youth to Youth Fund for youth-led organizations to pilot innovative, small-scale youth entrepreneurship projects (ILO, 2010). The youth employment, education, and agriculture programs are intended to reduce the prevalence of child labor; however, no assessments of the impact of these programs on child labor have been identified (U.S Embassy Freetown, 2012). Despite these programs, the government’s investment in social programs continues to be insufficient to address the scope of child labor in Sierra Leone, particularly among children working in dangerous activities in agriculture, mining, fishing and domestic labor.

This is a glimpse into the reality of children in Sierra Leone; “Help!; Join the Campaign to Save the lives of Sierra Leonean Children”

References

Boa˚s, M, A Hatloy (2008). Child Labour in West Africa: Different work – different vulnerabilities.” International               Migration, 46(3):1-24

Dunstan, S. Farmer Perceptions, (2009). Child Labour, and economics of tree crops production andmarketing:       

            Kailahun, Kenema and Kono Districts of Sierra Leone.

FAO-ILO (2011). Good Practice Guide for Addressing Child Labor in Fisheries and Aquaculture: Policy and practice

Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/FI/DOCUMENT/child_labour_FAO-ILO/child_labour_FAO-ILO.pdf

Fofana, L. (2008). Sierra Leone living off scraps: Intern press service. Retrieved from:  http://ipsnews.net  

             /news.asp?idnews=44127

 International Labour Office (2011). Children in hazardous work: what we know, what we need to do. Geneva,

International Labour Organization. Retrieved from: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_155428.pdf

Macro International Inc. (2008. In-country Rresearch on child labor/forced labor in the production of goods: Sierra Leone Fairfax

The International Human Rights Clinic(2009). Digging in the Dirt: Child Miners in Sierra Leone’s Diamond Industry. Harvard Law School, Cambridge Retrieved from: http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/hrp/documents/Digging_In_The_Dirt(LR).pdf

U.S. Department of State (2012), Sierra Leone in country reports on human rights practices: Washington, DC. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/186451.pdf.

U.S. Embassy- Freetown,(2010; 2011; 2012; & 2013) reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teenage Pragnancy: Cause of Maternal Deaths in Sierra Leone

Awoko  : a local reputable newspaper in Sierra Leone in its March 31, 2014 publication highlighted that:

The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Sia Nyama Koroma, has said that 40% of maternal deaths occur as a result of teenage pregnancy. She made this statement at the formal opening of a policy dialogue meeting at the Bintumani Hall, Aberdeen, under the theme ‘curbing early marriage and protecting children’s right in West Africa.

Retrieved from: http://awoko.org/2014/03/24/sierra-leone-news-40-of-maternal-death-due-to-teenage-pregnancy-first-lady/

Teenage Pregnancy and Teenage Motherhood has taken a center stage in the lives of young girls particularly in Sierra Leone and the world over. Every year it is estimated that about 14 million adolescent girls give birth globally, this according to a (UNFPA ,2004) report on the state of the world Population.

In Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy is one of the more pervasive problems affecting the health, social, economic and political progress and empowerment of women and girls. The issue to address is alarming and is reflected in the following national statistics: 34% of all pregnancies occur amongst teenage girls (SLDHS 2008), 26% of women age 15-19 have already had a birth (MICS 2010), 40% of maternal death occur as a result of teenage pregnancy (MICS 2010) and the untimely pregnancy of young girls is ranked as the third most common reason for them dropping out of school (UNICEF 2008). Girls especially in rural areas get married before the age 18years contributing to school dropout, teenage pregnancy, early child bearing leading to maternal and child mortality. According to the National strategy for the reduction of teenage pregnancy (2013), Early child bearing and teenage pregnancy is one of the most pervasive problem affecting, health, economic and political progress and the empowerment of women and girls in the country. In 2010, 7 % of girls 15-19 had a live birth before 15 years of age. In this age cohort, girls in rural areas were twice as likely to get pregnant before 15 years of age. (UNICEF Situation Analysis, 2011).

The problem:

Primarily, Teenage pregnancy has been identified as a booming problem in Sierra Leone. This is as a result of problems ranging from sexual behavior of girls and boys and the absence of reproductive health knowledge, early sexual exposure, poverty and family support structure, harmful traditional beliefs, Negative peer pressure, power relations and other undecided factors leading to an increase in Teenage Pregnancy and Teenage Motherhood in the Country.

Early marriage remains a vexing problem and a leading cause of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. Among girls 15-19 years, 8 % were married before 15 years in 2010 compared to 15 % in 2005[1]. Girls in this age group in rural areas were more than twice as likely to be married by 15 years compared with girls in urban areas. At twelve to fourteen years of age, both boys and girls were increasingly regarded as adults eligible to transition to Junior Secondary School. In practice, however, many girls dropped out of school when they became pregnant or had married. Marriage often occurred following initiation into the Bondo Society. In many cases, the marriages were informal, hasty arrangements made because the girl was pregnant. Such marriages lacked the security and psychosocial supports that traditional arrangements had provided, and they left many girls at risk of abandonment and neglect. Boys, too, were increasingly regarded as adults since they had been initiated, showed deeper voice and physical maturity, were sexually active, and did the work of adult men.

In Sierra Leone, girls that give birth under the age 16 are more likely to die as a result of excessive hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia or to what many may refer to as obstructed labor. With an estimated population of about 5.6 million in Sierra Leone, 48% of whom are below the age of Eighteen Years (18) And this has led for Sierra Leone to be ranked last in the Human Development Index at 177th, with 38% of the population do not meet their food needs. (MICS, 2010). Teenage pregnancy and childbirth are the principal causes of both maternal and mortality rate in Sierra Leone for girls aged 14-17, accounting for every 60% of deaths associated with teenage pregnancy. (UNICEF, 2010).

In relation to the above situation, the government for Sierra Leone lunched a national strategy to address this normally in the country.

See below video:

The government is all on all people organizations, government department traditional leaders and parents, teachers, nurses to join the fight against the devastating ills of teenage pregnancy in teh country.

Improving the status of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF)

President Koroma Turns Sod For New Military Barracks

Cocorioko  a credible local Sierra Leone newspaper stated in its February, 11, 2014 publication that the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) turned the sod for the construction of fifteen accommodation blocks for personnel of the 5th Infantry Brigade headquarters at Gondama, Tikonko Chiefdom, Bo District. According to the newspaper, the president vowed and made a commitment that government will continue to seek the welfare of the army and make the RSLAF one of the most professional armed forces on the African continent.

The president statement: is like wow!; This is a plausible venture by the government in the country this critical life stage of seeking to consolidate its peace, security and stability  and restoring the dignity and credibility of the army within the country and the world at large. My only concern is for the sustained subsequent government commitment to this drive.

The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces was formed after independence in 1961, on the basis of elements of the former British Royal West Africa Frontier Force then. The RSLAF is responsible for the territorial security of Sierra Leone’s borders and defending the national interests of the country, within the framework of its international obligations. However, the RSLAF lost it’s credibility nationally and internationally as a result of the complete breakdown of command and control coupled with it’s unclear and suspicious role during the ten years of civil war and after the AFRC coup of 1997. The civilian population negative perspective include the military’s intervention in politics through a series of coups, the unprofessional attitude displayed by soldiers who perceive themselves to be above the law and the military’s inability to stop the atrocities perpetrated by rebels, and in some cases, men were robbed, beaten or killed and women were abused and raped by soldiers who came to be known as sobels meaning: soldiers by day and rebels by night, (Paul Jackson & Peter Albrecht, 2008).

Nonetheless, the military was reconstructed and trained by the British military, through the International Military Assistance Training Team (IMATT) after the civil war ended in 2002 and became the largest and best equipped branch of service with 8,500 personnel according to, (RSLAF, 2013). According to Sierra Leone Constitution and the government Defense White Paper, the functions of the security sector include guarding and securing the country, preserving its safety and territorial integrity, participating in its development and protecting the Constitution. This implies support to civil authorities in the promotion of wider national interests, encompassing the promotion of regional peace and stability, humanitarian operations and disaster management activities, both nationally and internationally. The RSLAF has since resumed its fundamental role of providing peace, security and stability both within and around the country’s borders after its reconstruction. Also, the RSLAF’s Navy continues to actively safeguarding the country’s waters against illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling and crime at sea. In addition, RASLAF are also currently significantly contributing to the common good and solidarity around the continent and world peace through its participation in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Darfur in South Sudan.

This critical role of the army in providing peace and security in Sierra Leone and beyond remains a justification for the army to be supported and treated with utmost dignity and worth as a motivation for their continued loyalty to the state. Peace and security are fundamental components of human existence and development. They are everything that a state needs to effectively remain functional, as there will be no development without peace and security in a nation. Regardless of this, RSLAF continue to suffer from limited budget allocations, which impacts on their capacity and has led to poor pay and conditions for soldiers, as are veterans’ benefits. The military has little in the way of serviceable equipment, with the Air Force being dysfunctional. Housing for the military in the country is a notable concern. Based on my observations, there seem to be more civilians in the various military barracks around the country than the soldiers themselves. Civilians encroached and continue to build dwelling houses in very close proximity to the barracks and use the barracks as a route to access their dwelling houses on a daily basis. Most junior officers in the military in rural postings around the country live in dilapidated buildings as well as in mud and thatch houses with deplorable conditions. My observations are ascertained by Paul Jackson et, al (2008), who stated that most of the defense estate is in a dilapidated state. Furthermore, the conflict inflicted serious damage on many buildings with the result that water supply, latrines, sewage disposal and electricity wiring are now highly inadequat

Reforming and building the capacity of RSLAF can only be guided by political will and strategic direction to ensure professionalism, commitment, dedication, courage and a sense of purpose of the military. To restore dignity, social prestige and service pride to armed forces it is essential that the basic needs of our soldiers are met. The RSLAF should be cared for and properly managed to enhance a sense of belonging. The state should also at the same time adapt honesty, openness, promote a culture of merit, fairness and high standards by taking precise and resolute decisions in the interest of troop welfare to ensure their loyalty. Achieving these aims requires immense support from the GoSL in terms of resources, as well as a cordial working relationship and mutual understanding of purpose with donor agencies and the Ministry of Finance. Without such support, RSLAF’s task becomes impossible.

A major practical step is to accommodate all RSLAF personnel in barracks built to acceptable standards. If the current unsatisfactory arrangement is not addressed, it could lead to disaffection and lack of discipline. Single personnel should be accommodated in barracks and not allowed to find accommodation in the local community as it is at the moment in some part of the country. Additional married quarters are also required. The provision of this housing facilities will minimize RSLAF interaction with wider society and undue exposure to socio-political pressure. According to Major Paolo Conteh: Minister of Defense, previous attempts to address the huge accommodation needs of RSLAF through “Operation Pebu” lunched in 2003 failed to achieve its objectives. Hence, the government plan to construct barracks accommodation for personnel in all military deployments in the country is strategic and a step in the right direction. Besides the provision of accommodation for the military, the president also said: “While we seek peace for ourselves, and aspire to transform the RSLAF into a respected guarantor of peace in not just our Motherland, but on the continental stage, my Government will never turn its back in ensuring that soldiers live a decent and respected life.”

Photo of the President of Sierra Leone mixing mortar for bricklaying of the new barracks at Gondama barracks

IMAG00331

Moreover, Sierra Leoneans now believe and espouse that there is ‘no sustainable development without security.’ If serious and sustainable measures are not taken to build and maintain a strong national security apparatus, then the nation’s vision of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive society will remain an empty dream. Most Sierra Leoneans are appreciative of the government’s security reforms, reflected in the ongoing reform of the military and police, the creation of Office of National Security and other such institutions. However, more needs to be done to build, consolidate and sustain the national security apparatus. In particular, the country needs modern, well-trained and equipped, highly motivated and dependable security forces imbued with professional values. Also a nationally owned clear strategic plan should be put in place to ensure that subsequent governments are held accountable to the completion of these commitment towards improving the quality of life of the military in Sierra Leone.

Reference

Awareness times newspaper, (2014), In Sierra Leone: “We shall do more for our Armed Forces” — President Koroma Vows.  Retrieved from: http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200524758.shtml

Awoko Newspaper, (2014), Sierra Loen News: Army to build new quartersRetrieved from: http://awoko.org/2014/02/13/sierra-leone-news-army-to-build-new-quarters/

Paul Jackson & Peter Albrecht, (2008),Reconstructing the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF)Retrieved from: http://www.ssrnetwork.net/documents/Publications/SierraLeoneWPs/working%20paper%203.pdf

Legislate againt Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone

            Concord Times Newspaper is one of the oldest and credible local print media newsroom in Sierra Leone. Concord Times published in its February 19, 2014 publication contained an article written by  Journalist: Mohamed Massaquoi stated that Sierra Leone: Northern Region Tops FGM Activities – 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) Reveals. This article was also published on All Africa Online Newspapers.

The article stated that the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), (2013) conducted by Statistics Sierra Leone in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation puts the northern region of Sierra Leone at the top of FGM activities in the country.  Retrieved from: http://allafrica.com/stories/201402191575.html

According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes called female genital cutting (FGM/C) or female circumcision, is the cutting or removal of all, or a portion of the female genitals for cultural (not medical) reasons. There are different ways it is practiced according to the location or culture in which it is being done.

         Despite the fact that Sierra Leone is a signatory to the 1988 Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other international Human Rights instruments, there is still high prevalence of FGM/C and its related consequences on the health and wellbeing of women.

          In sierra Leone, FGM/C “Bondo Society” is wide spread regarded as a rite of passage for women into womanhood.  Apart from the Creoles in the Western Area, all other ethnic groups engage in the practice. This is inherent in a set of valuable cultural and traditional practice that nurtures purity and equip women with effective home management skills relevant for society at the time. In the 19th century, FGM/C Bondo Society was a form of non-formal school conducted for matured females who are prime for marriage and lasted between one to thee months. This tradition was practiced mostly during the dry season after harvest; when there is plenty food and less work. Most women that were initiated to this society were already either traditionally engaged or betrothed to their future husband. Women move straight into their husband’s homes after the completion of the Bondo Society initiation ceremony. As a result of this, Bondo calls for all initiates to be virgins; clearly putting a stop to promiscuity before initiation. It is abominable, according to Bondo precepts, for a girl not to be found a virgin when going through the process. Being found a virgin during this process brings respect and honor to both the women and their families in the society. Today, FGM/C has been generally used to define who ‘a real Sierra Leonean woman is’. In some female gatherings and communities, women who are not initiated are stigmatized, discriminated against. They are seen as outcasts or ‘unclean and referred to as incomplete women.

            Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) serves as the premise for other forms of Gender Based Violence and child abuse in the country regardless of the huge investment and interventions carried out to curb this deadly practice. Types I and II FGM/C is reported to be predominantly practices in the country.    According to the DHS, (2013), report, 75% had some flesh cut and removed, 9% were sewn closed, and less than 1% was cut without any skin removal.  More women in rural areas (94%) had been circumcised than in urban areas (81%). The results also show that FGM was highest in the Northern Region with 96% and lowest in the Western Region with 76%. The report added that circumcision was more prevalent among older women as 98% as of women aged 45-49 as compared to 74% of women aged 15-19 years. UNICEF, (2011), stated that FGM/C was 88% in 2010 but there has evidence that the practice was slowly diminishing, with 70% of women aged 15-19 being cut, compared to 96% of those aged 45-49 years. FGC was slightly less practiced on women with higher education, in wealthier homes and in urban areas. Only 22% of the women surveyed wished the practice to be discontinued compared to 72% who wanted it to continue.

DHS, (2013), reported that one of the main reasons why the Bondo secret society heads are so stubbornly opposed to the elimination of FGM, is that they regard this practice as their only source of livelihood.  “I am part of it because I am making money out of it. We don’t have alternative means of livelihood, so we depend on initiation fees being paid by parents for their children to be initiated. We also benefit from gifts being brought to the ‘Bondo bush’ for us the initiators,” said one of teh Digba/Sowei’s Bondo is now a kind of a cliché that carry so much fuss and “August meeting effect”. Nonetheless, parents especially mothers continue to go all out to make sure that their children go through the school before they reach 18 thereby continually unleashing suffering on them.

             The World Health Organization (WHO), FGM/C has both short and long term effects on women and girls. Some of the harm and known physical complications caused by the removal of, and or damage to, healthy, normal female genital tissue in the short term include severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding (Haemorrhage), difficulty in passing urine, tetanus or sepsis, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue and infections. In the long term, all types of FGM, particularly infibulation have been found to be associated with reproductive health morbidities, increased risk of childbirth complications, cyst, infertility, and cervical cancer. Sierra Leone’s high rates of teenage pregnancy and school drop-out are also linked to Bondo Societies, as once initiated many girls are considered ready for marriage.The effects of the practices are sufficient grounds for the legislation of the practice. However, the government does not have a clear policy on FGM/C and there are no laws explicitly banning the practice. Politicians in Sierra Leone do not think issues such as FGM/C need to be talked about, because they use FGM as a way of getting the votes of women, (African Development Bank, 2010).

Evidence in the video below is enough justification for legislating FGM/C in Sierra Leone. Disclaimer – This video is graphic; do not watch if you are not psych-emotionally strong!

All stakeholders, International Non Governmental Organisations, United Nations Organizations including  local organizations and stakeholders and hugely invested to curb teh practice yet,  the Sierra Leone government is yet to commit itself to proscribing the practice despite being part of so many international conferences seeking support for FGM to be banned.

Legislate against FGM/C and Save  Sierra Leone Women and Girls!

References

African Development Bank (2010), Joint Donor Gender Assessment Report: DFID Sierra Leone ols. 1 and 11,

Gender-Based Violence in Sierra Leone, (2008),: A National Research

UNICEF, 2011), Children’s Situational Analysis: Sierra Leone

UNICEF, (2013), Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change

Sierra Leone  Demographic Health Survey, (2013),.

WHO Press, World Health Organisation, (2012), Geneva, Switzerland: Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/fgm/9789241596442/en/index.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improving Mental Health Care in Sierra Leone: 2014 Mental Health Operational Plan Launched

Awoko Newspaper is a local print media newsroom in Sierra Leone. Awoko in iyts Februaty 16, 20104 news paper published news about the launch of the Sierra Leone 2014 Mental Health Care Operational Strategy by the Minister of Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Retrieved from: http://awoko.org/2014/02/10/sierra-leone-news-2014-mental-health-operational-manual-launched/

The launch of the 2014 Annual Mental Health Operational Strategy for me is a step in the right direction and an excellent initiative demonstrated by the current government towards enhancing the wellbeing and enjoyment of rights of people with disabilities including those with mental disorders in the country. Moreover this is also a proof of the continued government commitment in the implementation of the Mental health Policy and 2010-2018 Strategic Plan to increase access to health care delivery services that seeks to improve the health of the nation’s citizens.

             Sierra Leone in recent past has one of the worst health indicators in the world with extremely low life expectancy rate, high adult illiteracy rates of 48% in men and 71% in women. According to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report, (2010), in 2005 under-five mortality rate stands at 267/1000, maternal mortality in 2000 was at 1800/100,000 births and 875/100,000 in 2008 while HIV and AIDs stands at 1.5% of the country’s population.

World Health Organization (WHO) report, (2012), stated that 715,000 people in Sierra Leone are currently suffering from mental disorders, with only 2,000 receiving treatment. This creates a treatment gap of over 99% in the country’s due to the protracted neglect in the area of mental health and the country’s limited resources. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) mental health needs assessment report, (2005), found the prevalence rates to be 2% for psychosis, 4% for severe depression, 4% for severe substance abuse, 1% for mental retardation and 1% for epilepsy in the population. This makes the situation 4 times higher than the estimated global prevalence of 3% for severe mental illness. The Human Rights Commission report, (2013), highlighted the shortage of qualified medical personnel being one of the problems affecting the effective operations of the national psychiatric hospital. The hospital had only three trained psychiatric nurses and one psychiatric doctor. The nurses assigned at the hospital refused to report for duty due to the stigma associated with working in a psychiatric hospital. The non-availability of a counseling unit also remains a major challenge.This situation is worsen by drug/substance abuse and high rate of alcohol consumption in the country. WHO ProMIND profile mental health report, (2012), stated that in 2008, about 90% of admissions to the Sierra Leone psychiatric hospital were drug-related while the Sierra Leone Youth Report, (2012), stated that 15% of youth in the country are engaged in drugs/substance abuse. WHO, (2012), mentioned that an average of 9.7 litres of alcohol per capita is consumed by Sierra Leoneans as opposed to 6.2 litres per capita for the rest of the WHO African region. High alcohol consumption is often associated with mental disorders, as well as physical illness, unsafe sex and increased risk of road accidents. The MDG, (2010), report indicated that the deplorable situation of the country is as a result of poor infrastructure, poor social service delivery, lack of access to primary health care facilities and services, entrenched poverty, in effective governance, corruption and a host of other issues.

 An interesting bit about Sierra Leone is that, most mental disorders were treated using traditional means and religious methods. Religion attributed some of these disorders as caused by “Demons” and therefore take people suffering from some of these diseases to churches and pastors for deliverance. (See Video)

 

          Regardless of the abysmal situation described above, the country has made significant strides towards improving the primary health care system in the country including mental health services. WHO, (2012), report highlighted that the launching of the National Mental Health Policy  in 2009  led to the integration of mental health in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) and the launch of the 2010- 2018 National Mental Health Strategic Plan in 2010. Also, 187 mental health care workers including nurses and Community Health Officers (CHO) from across the country where trained in 2011 and 2012 with the support of Mercy Ships, i WHO & MoHS. The implementation of strategic plan contributed to the introduction of Certificate and Diploma training courses in Psychiatric Nursing at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) in 2012. In addition, there is also increased community awareness raising and education across the country on metal health issues by state and non-state actors to enhance early identification and treatment of persons with mental disorders.  

            In response to further address the mental health issues in the country, the national  2014 Mental Health Operational Strategy was launched to provide a clear direction in addressing priority areas in the National Mental Health Strategic Plan across the country. The National Mental Health Program Director, Dr. Andrew Muana, stated during the launching that the strategy is a component of the National Mental Health Strategic Plan, 2014-2018.  He also noted that the operational plan marks the launch pad for implementation of teh remaining mental healthcare model in Sierra Leone that caters for the involvement of communities along side  health facilities at all level of the country’s health care delivery system.

            The 2014 operational plan highlighted a focus on human resource capacity development on mental health, as well as the provision of scholarships and allowances for 40 Community Health Officers and 35 Nurses to pursue relevant postgraduate diploma courses in mental health and the recruitment and training of a Mental Health Specialist and health professionals.The  Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, will serve as  a tertiary hospital for patient management, and also as a referral, teaching and research hospital for mental healthcare.

            Responding to mental health issues in Sierra Leone is not a one-day journey considering the huge mental health needs and complexities that comes with that. Nonetheless, the implementation of this plan will contribute to increase mental health care workers in the country’s labor market whose expertise can be utilized to address immense mental health issues in the country.

     “Little drops of Water make a mighty ocean”

 

 

In Sierra Leone, Lungi Residents Enjoy Safe Water Supply

 This article was written and published by Augustine Samba – Journalist of the Awareness Times Newspaper on Feb 7, 2014, 17:04

Awareness Times Newspaper is a credible local Non-Governmental print media house that informs the people on current affairs and social issues on a daily basis.

Retrieved from: http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200524709.shtml on 2/7/2014

This article is focused on the Government of Sierra Leone’s effort to increase all year round access to potable water both within dwelling houses and through Public taps or stand pipes for its population in Lungi, Kafu Bullom chiefdom, Port Loko District, Northern Sierra Leone.

The provision of pipe-borne potable water supply is an excellent initiative and a major stride made by the government of Sierra Leone to increasing access to all year round safe drinking water to citizens of this locality; as this remains the primary responsibility or every state to its populace.

Safe drinking water is a basic necessity that to a greater extent determines the good health of a nation and contributes to the overall wellbeing and quality of life of any type of population while unsafe drinking water can be a significant carrier of diseases such as trachoma, cholera, typhoid, and schistosomiasis, diarrheoa etc. In addition to its association with disease, access to all year round potable water has significant impact on women and children, who bear the primary responsibility for carrying water, often for long distances particularly in rural communities.

 

Sierra Leone is a country with huge water resources and located on 12 river basins. Five of which are shared with Guinea and Liberia while the seven rivers: Great Scarcies, Sewa, Moa, Rokel, Tia and Little Scarcies are in the country, (Rand McNally, 1993). Moreover, the country also has a number of water falls, streams, lakes, natural springs, etc to address the huge water needs of the its citizens but much has not been invested to tap the great available resources.

According to the Sierra Leone Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (2010, pp 59-61), improved sources of potable water includes: pipe borne water into (dwelling, compound, yard, or plot), public tap/stand pipe, tube well or bore hole, protected hand pump well, protected spring and rain water collection. Nonetheless, only 57% of Sierra Leonean population has access to improved potable water sources; 76% in western area and 48% in the three provinces. Ninety eight percent of the population in the western area has access to improved water sources compared to 48% in the North where Lungi is located. Only 32.5 % of the country’s population has access to water within the dwelling, compound or yard. The most important improved sources of water is the protected well which is only accessed by 34%, 28% and 21% of the population in the East, North and Southern provinces respectively. Surface water, water from streams, unprotected hand dug water wells, springs, ponds, rivers are the mostly used unprotected sources of drinking water.

            This appalling water situation in the country is a significant contributor to the cholera outbreak in 2012 that affected 23, 220 and claimed the lives of 300 people countrywide according to the Cholera outbreak, Emergency appeal report, (2013, p. 4.). Therefore increasing access to safe drinking water is a huge contribution by the state to improve the quality of life of its populace.

            Apart from all year round access to water being a key contributor to good health and easing the burden of women and girls, Lungi is hosting the country’s current international airport and hence remains the first point of entry into the country by foreign nationals and international partners. The lack of potable water sources in such a community speaks volumes and helps in painting a picture about the country. Therefore is but commendable that the government is investing in this sector and providing such a great resource for her people in this part of the country.

Water Challenges in Sierra Leone (Watch Video)

However, my concern with this great initiative bears on the sustainability or the continued all year round access to pipe-borne potable water being provided to these communities. Sustainability remains a critical factor to assessing the financial and social viability of this investment and its related impact on improving the quality of life of the project beneficiaries both in the short and long term. Sustaining could be challenging if the people for which this resource is provided for are not involved in the decision making process and if adequate awareness and education is not provided for them prior to the completion of the project.      

     

  In Relation to the above, I would like to understand which approaches and action steps have been taken to ensure the effective management, maintenance of the water system and the continued provision of potable water to the beneficiary communities through the following?. How is the community going to contribute to the management of the water system upon project completion? How is the water system going to be managed? Who manages it? Who provides for the purification of the water before it is distributed to the community? Who is responsible for replacement of parts and routine maintenance of this system?  Are the project beneficiaries expected to pay water bills or rates? How and where do they pay? Who manages the funds?. I am asking all of these questions to help us as Sierra Leoneans think through the use of effective approaches that will enhance effective management, ownership and sustainability of development initiatives after project phase out.

References

            Emergency appeal final report, (2013), Sierra Leone: Cholera outbreak. n° MDRSL003 GLIDE n° EP-2012-000041-SLE, International federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

          Sierra Leone Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (2010, pp.105-113)