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Government’s support in protecting children from sexual abuse is lacking, FSU boss

July 20, 2016 By AL Mansaray and Casper Hsu

A senior officer of the Sierra Leone Police force has asked for leave of absence from her job and appointment apparently because of government’s inability to support her unit – the largest within the country’s police department – Concord Times has learned.

National head of Family Support Unit (FSU), Superintendent Mira Koroma, said Thursday that the unit was currently experiencing constraints and hard times and as such they were unable to effectively perform their duties, thus derailing their job functions.

“We are undergoing some stress, some difficulties in the office. Well, we’ve not been able to do much. Every year we have our annual work plan – that we are able to do trainings, different programmes to ensure that we educate the community or the people or public about the relevant laws and then train our personnel to be more effective and all of that.

“We’ve not been able to do anything. It’s been frustrating! I’ve been sending letters out to NGOs; nobody has helped us this year. And worst of all the government has not been able to give us a pin since yet. I’m tired,” Supt. Koroma admitted.

She said the scale of frustration had gotten so immense that her only option was to ask for a leave of absence from employment.

“I’ve tried so much that it’s got to a level wherein I’ve just asked for a leave for forty-five days. I’m tired. It’s frustrating when you push so hard, you expecting results and you’re not getting results just because people are not really ready to support you.”

The FSU has at least 430 personnel that are serving in about 68 units scattered throughout the four regions of the country, headed by regional coordinators – with the overall head stationed at the Criminal Investigations Department.

Supt. Koroma revealed that the FSU has the highest number of cases in all of the units within Sierra Leone Police and funding is provided by the government – like every other unit in the force – via the police department.

However, she noted that since the start of the year, no funding had been allocated to the Family Support Unit, whose three vehicles serving countywide have been reduced to two – with the third rendered inoperable due to mechanical problems.

“I told them that I’m undergoing stress because, I’m now…when victims come in, I should be patient to be able to listen to them. I can’t listen to them anymore.  When they talk, I want them to finish. I need my own break, I’m tired,” she lamented.

Supt. Koroma said the most daunting challenge encountered by the law enforcement unit in their responsibility to protect women and children of sexual abuse was the lack of law implementation.

“They expect to just give us laws, and for us to just implement them. And it’s a challenge. For my units to implement laws, I have to train my personnel – where is the resources?  It’s not provided. If we need to be effective, we need enough vehicles!  There’re areas where bikes can’t go.

“How can I go and do [make] an arrest with a bike? How can I transport a sexual abuse victim on a bike? So, nothing is provided, just the laws. So, that’s where the challenge lies,” she emphasised.

She said the situation of children in the country was not good as they are sexually abused, indiscriminately.

“So, when we talk about the situation of the children in Sierra Leone, it’s very bad.  Because we have three months old being sexually abused. Three years old, five years old, ten years old. These are the incidents we having,” Supt. Koroma said.

She said it’s paramount that the true picture of the state of child welfare as it relates to sexual abuse and exploitation was revealed – not to malign the government nor criticise her department.

But to ensure that something is done to address the key issues that are affecting women and children because. “If the truth will help me to be effective in my duties, I’ll have to say it.  And this is the truth, nothing is being done.”

However, she acknowledged that some non-governmental organisations have rendered assistance and expressed hope that others, – national and international – would emulate the humanitarian gesture.

“With all the numerous challenges, the unit remains grateful for the one vehicle and bikes donated by UNICEF, laptops and computers by IRC and the radio programme funding by SOROPTIMIST in this year,” she concluded.

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