The West African country of Sierra Leone is home to some of the greatest diamond, gold, and titanium mines in the world. Despite this natural wealth, however, more than half of Sierra Leone’s people live below the poverty line. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Sierra Leone:
- There are more than 6.4 million people living in Sierra Leone, 52.9 percent of whom live below the national poverty line.
- Malnutrition is the greatest cause of child mortality in Sierra Leone, accounting for nearly half of all child deaths. Almost one-third of children under five are chronically malnourished.
- Roughly 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the majority of whom rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
- Agriculture, however, has faced many challenges in recent years due to lack of equipment, poor quality seeds, deforestation and climate change. Rice production has declined so significantly that only four percent of farmers produce enough to meet their needs.
- Due to these agricultural struggles, the country now imports large amounts of food. Between $200 and $300 million is spent each year importing rice alone, harming local agriculture and increasing the country’s vulnerability to global price fluctuations.
- Economic development halted between 1991 and 2001 due to a civil war. This has had lasting impacts on the country’s economy, as approximately 1.5 million people were forced to leave their homes and livelihoods.
- The Ebola outbreak also worsened hunger in Sierra Leone. Approximately 280,000 people were made food-insecure due to the disease.
- In order to encourage young people to attend school, and to increase the education that is vital to rebuilding the country post-war, many primary schools offer feeding programs.
- In areas of the country where agriculture is still not providing enough food to feed the villages, food-for-work and food-for-training programs are in place to help support people as the country’s infrastructure is rebuilt.
- The World Food Programme runs a number of programs in order to combat hunger in Sierra Leone. Among them is a supplementary feeding program in order to treat malnutrition in lactating mothers and children under five.
While the country is still struggling to rebuild its economy after repeated crises, progress has been made. Numerous programs have been put in place that are making a significant impact in the fight against hunger in Sierra Leone.
– Alexi Worley