President of Sierra Leone gives keynote address from abroad

By Jessica Vaughn

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Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone, gives his keynote address via satellite Thursday. At podium is Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize.

DES MOINES, Iowa — President Ernest Bai Koroma of Ebola-embattled Sierra Leone expressed faith in his country’s youth during his keynote speech at the World Food Prize Thursday.

“I believe in the youth of my country and I believe in the youth of the world,” Koroma said.

Koroma spoke to the crowd via satellite from his desk in Sierra Leone. He had been scheduled to give the keynote speech in Des Moines but remained in Sierra Leone because of the Ebola epidemic there.

Ebola has been the main focus of media coverage in his country since the first case was diagnosed there in May of 2014. The president addressed the impact it has had on the agricultural economy and the population.

“A disease that strikes youth and farmers is a disease that destroys food production,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of sustaining the wellbeing of the young population in order to sustain his country’s success.

“The Ebola disease is a disease against agricultural production; it is a disease against youth,” he said. “It is a disease that compromises the roles of youth in agriculture.”

Koroma said that the epidemic needs to be addressed globally to eradicate the sickness and help the economies of the countries affected. He cited the namesake of the World Food Prize as a theoretical proponent of the fight.

“The founder of the Food Prize, Norman Borlaug, was a man who would have supported the fight of Ebola,” Koroma said. “He was a man who loved food production. He was a man who loved youth.

“In the 1940s, when the scientists were trying to split the atom bomb to cause destruction, Norman Borlaug was attempting to split wheat to feed millions.”

Although the near future of Sierra Leone appears to be dim, Koroma is depending on younger generations to turn the situation into a positive one. If the youth don’t contribute, the effect on the economy could be severe.

“Without their participation, their health and their positive role our nation is doomed,” he said. “There will be no president and no future.”

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