As part of its initiatives to promote sport as an agent for social change, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) teamed up with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this week to launch an ambitious three-year Sport and Education programme for young people in the Osire refugee settlement in Namibia.
Some 8,500 people currently live in the settlement, 40 per cent of whom are between the ages of 10 and 30. The programme is designed to get this group more involved in organised sport in an effort to alleviate some of the major problems affecting young people in Osire, namely teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and substance abuse.
By linking the sporting activity to educational programmes on topics such as sexual and reproductive health and computer classes, the IOC and UNHCR are looking to provide the young people with meaningful recreational activities and the necessary tools to make informed decisions in life.
At a ceremony marking the launch of the programme in Osire on Tuesday, Namibian athletics star and IOC member Frankie Fredericks said, “Our work here is to provide hope to the young people of this settlement. If they are given more opportunities to dream, they will have more reasons to pursue them and make them a reality. Sport may not always seem as significant as other forms of aid, but it can have a considerable positive impact on lives.”
A major facet of the programme is to empower young women, and as such the goal will be to increase female participation in the sporting and educational activities. Sports equipment for women and girls will be provided to help encourage their participation, and domestic leagues will be set up to create greater opportunities for the athletes.
The IOC will oversee the sporting aspect of the programme and will provide equipment and a minibus to transport the teams, while funding training for coaches, organisers and coordinators.
The vast majority of the refugees in Osire originate from Angola, with others coming from the Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and 19 other African countries. With many of the refugees having no other choice than to stay in the Osire settlement for several years, the community faces a range of socio-economic and psychological challenges. Limited employment and higher education opportunities lead to feelings of frustration and despair, especially among the many young people living there.
The IOC is a long-time supporter and partner of the work undertaken by the United Nations, and last year the IOC became only the fifth international organisation to receive official observer status at the United Nations.
The mission of the Olympic Movement is to place sport at the service of humanity. While sport cannot solve all the world’s problems, the IOC believes it can serve as a helpful tool for community development in areas with few economic resources or educational opportunities.
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