Liberia President George Manneh Weah, has launched the National Fund Drive for the rehabilitation and empowerment of “At-Risk Youth”, popularly known as ZOGOS.
President Weah said the initiative will require a significant financial investment, with the initial set of interventions put at approximately US$13.9 million.
To kick-start the fund drive, the President announced a pledge of an initial amount of One Million United States Dollars this year, with an additional Two Million United States Dollars to be appropriated within the subsequent budget for the Fund Drive.
At the Thursday, June 30, 2022 Ceremony, the President decried the debilitating conditions of “At-Risk Youth”, who he said represent a clear and present danger not only to themselves but also to the entire socio-economic fabric of the Nation.
The Liberian Leader warned that continued neglect of their plight can rapidly develop into a significant threat to civil society and national security.
President Weah stressed that “this threat of imminent danger will continue to grow in size and scope if these potentially valuable human assets are not reclaimed and redeemed and transformed into law-abiding citizens whose education and skills-sets will enable them to have a reasonable chance of re-integrating into the larger society as productive, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining citizens.”
He referred to the youth of Liberia as the largest and most important demographic stratum of the population, to whom the government has an important duty to prepare to achieve their aspirations and become as qualified to effectively compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
President Weah acknowledged that for far too long, Liberia witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of certain members of the youth population who live on the streets and in urban ghettos.
“Most of them were affected by the long years of our civil conflict, during which they were conscripted as child soldiers by various warring factions and introduced to drugs and other harmful substances,” the Chief Executive said.
President Weah added: “Some of them were orphaned by the death or disappearance of their parents during the civil wars, and the destruction of their traditional family structures.”
According to the President, the “At-Risk Youth” are the human collateral damage that is one of the unintended consequences of a war that was anything but civil. He called on the National Legislature to make whatever modifications needed to be made to amend existing drug laws to make drug trafficking a non-bailable offense.
He also urged the Judiciary to strengthen the judiciary system to ensure stringent interpretation of laws to assure deterrence.
“By doing so, those who are responsible for creating avenues for putting the lives of our “At-Risk-Youth” into danger, will be held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent of the law.”
President Weah said Liberia’s development partners, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, IMF, the Diplomatic Corps, and businesses are collaborating with the Government to raise the financial capital needed for the successful implementation of the “At-Risk Youth” in the country.
“While working with our Partners to raise this amount,” the President noted, “I believe that the unfortunate circumstances affecting our youth are a national problem that warrants the input and contribution from every segment of our country.”
He called on all Liberians at home and abroad, the business community, the civil society, and the friends of Liberia to join the Government in this endeavor to raise this amount to give “At-Risk-Youth” new hope of a dignified livelihood.