General News of Monday, 15 September 2003
Accra, Sept.15, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama, on Monday, told Mr Gaddi H. Vasquez, Director of Peace Corps, that his organisation's focus on combating HIV/AIDS in Ghana was crucial for the nation's progress. He said the disease, which could wipe out the nation's most dynamic population, threatened productivity and growth of Africa's economy, adding that, Peace Corps' contribution would, therefore, help to save the situation.
Vice President Mahama also lauded Peace Corps' contribution to rural development, which he said started from the educational sector, but had expanded over the years to cover sanitation, management of small businesses and poverty reduction schemes.
He shared his experiences as a beneficiary of the Peace Corps programme, saying volunteers taught him science in secondary school and expressed admiration for their willingness to serve in the remotest areas and adding that their ability to easily adapt to their new environment was remarkable.
Vice President Mahama said the relationship between Ghana and America was 'fantastic,' adding Washington's investments in agriculture; defence, health, education and several other areas were helpful. He said Ghana was committed to playing an active role in ECOWAS and the African Union to reduce poverty and maintain peace on the continent.
Mr Vasquez, who is in Accra to launch this year's conference of Peace Corps Country Directors in Africa; said the legendary hospitality of Ghanaians had enhanced the successful service of the volunteers. Ghana was the first country in the world to enjoy the services of Peace Corps in 1961, under President Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Since then, more than 170,000 volunteers have served in diverse fields including education, health, HIV/AIDS education, information technology, business development, environment and agriculture.
Mr Vasquez said Washington would expand its programmes in Ghana to facilitate socio-economic development and expressed the hope that the conference would provide the platform towards that.
The five-day conference, being attended by Peace Corps Country Directors and staff from 27 African countries and Washington, would discuss lessons from their volunteer-assisted programmes in Africa. They would review their programmes in education; health; small enterprise development; environment; agriculture and information technology.
They would also consider HIV/AIDS, gender and youth development issues.
Alhaji Rashid Bawa, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said the programme to fight HIV/AIDS should target the youth through sporting activities.
Alhaji Bawa said sports did not only engage the youth to develop their talents, but also mobilised them for other productive ventures. U.S. Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates and other Peace Corps officials accompanied Director Vasquez to the Castle.