Schools for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a country with an abundant amount of natural resources located on the West Coast of Africa. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone endured a civil war that had detrimental effects on the country’s physical, social and economic infrastructure. After the civil war, Sierra Leone made significant progress in almost all sectors. Unfortunately, its education sector is still facing challenges. Organizations such as SOS Children’s’ Villages International and Schools for Salone, with the support of the Government of Sierra Leone, have stepped in to help better Sierra Leone’s education sector.

School Attendance Rates

Since the civil war, Sierra Leone has made great efforts in rebuilding destroyed, abandoned and damaged schools, but most schools are still in need of repairs. Furthermore, many schools lack sufficient learning materials or qualified teachers. However, Sierra Leone has seen an impressive percentage increase in primary school enrollment. Nearly 100 percent of both boys and girls attend primary school. There is only a 2 percent difference between boys and girls completing their education, boys at 69 percent, and girls at 67.

Although primary school attendance rates have continued to increase, school dropout rates for both boys and girls is an alarming concern. When it comes to secondary school, the numbers drop to 57 percent of both boys and girls attend lower secondary school. Unfortunately, that number drops even further to 29 percent for boys and 26 percent for girls when it comes to enrolling in upper secondary school. There is a 53 percent drop out rate of both boys and girls. There is even a bigger disparity in attendance rates and completion rates for both girls and boys in rural areas of Sierra Leone because of the lack of access to schooling.

Since 60 percent of people in Sierra Leone live under the poverty line, it makes it difficult for many households to afford school for their children. It was reported, in the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, that 35 percent of households don’t enroll their children in school due to lack of funds and about 28 percent don’t have a functioning school in their village or community. Building more schools for Sierra Leone, especially in rural areas, is important and vital for the future of the people and the country.

Organizations Making a Change

SOS Children’s Villages provides various programs to make sure that children have access to quality education and training to prepare them to become independent adults. Some of the things the programs have created and supported are improving child-centered quality education, creating inclusive learning environments, working with communities and authorities to build schools as well as providing speech therapy and after-school tutoring, mentoring and coaching for the youth. SOS Children’s Villages also runs the schools that it has established and built in order to ensure quality education. About 3,000 students have benefited from the organizations’ schools and programs in Sierra Leone.

In 2005, Schools for Salone began its mission to provide quality education to the people of Sierra Leone. Since 2005, the organization has built 22 primary school buildings and three school libraries. These facilities serve more than 6,500 children across Sierra Leone. Schools for Salone has also provided training opportunities for more than 150 teachers. Its main missions are to build schools, keep boys and girls in school and provide scholarship opportunities for the children of Sierra Leone.

The civil war in Sierra Leone had many repercussions and has affected all of the country’s sectors; however, it is most apparent in its education sector. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages and Schools for Salone have decided to help improve the education sector of the country. More schools for Sierra Leone could mean a brighter future for the country’s education sector, but more importantly, a brighter future for the children of Sierra Leone.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

Winch EnergySierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa with a population of more than 7 million people. About 60 percent of the population in Sierra Leone lives under the poverty line, and lack of electricity is a huge contributing factor. Sierra Leone is in dire need of electricity. Companies such as Winch Energy, a global energy developer, have decided to step in and bring power to Sierra Leone. Here is how Winch Energy is paving a way to a brighter future in Sierra Leone.

Effects of Lack of Electricity

Sierra Leone’s power sector has been experiencing “decades of underinvestment.” Public health facilities cannot offer quality healthcare due to the lack of electricity. It was reported that Sierra Leone could reduce the infant mortality rate by 40 percent if clinics in rural areas had better “lighting for night time births.” Without improved access to electricity, Sierra Leone will continue to remain in the dark.

In 2014, Sierra Leone, along with the rest of West Africa, had experienced one of the biggest Ebola outbreaks. It caused devastating effects to many communities, economies and public health systems across West Africa. Due to the Ebola outbreak, the quality of public health worsened in Sierra Leone, especially in the areas with high rates of poverty and lack of electricity.

Winch Energy

Winch Energy is a global energy developer that creates sustainable solutions for off-grid distributed power. Its goal is to improve power generation and eliminate unequal telecommunications access.  It works to improve electricity distribution to people all over the world, especially to those who don’t have access to running water, communications and electricity. The Ministry of Energy in Sierra Leone has signed a contract with Winch Energy in efforts to bring direct electricity access to 24 villages and towns in Sierra Leone through the installation of solar-mini grids.

Winch Energy has already begun the first phase of the project. It has installed 12 mini-grids in northern Sierra Leone, and the company hopes to make them operational by June 2019. This first phase of the project is said to benefit 6,000 people. During the second phase of the project, another 12 mini-grids will be installed by October 2019, which will benefit another 24,000 people.

The installation of mini-grids in Sierra Leone can make electricity easily accessible and even better the quality of life. Things such as printing, television, internet and refrigeration can become common in these towns and villages. Electricity will also help public health facilities improve the quality of service, which will help better the quality of life among the people of Sierra Leone.

This project could help increase income within the community and improve the current socio-economic status of Sierra Leone. Providing access to electricity has the potential to create jobs and better the quality of life in rural areas of the country. Development and access to electricity come hand in hand. This is how Winch Energy is paving the way to a brighter future in Sierra Leone.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

mangroves
Yelibuya, an island in Sierra Leone, provides a case study of mangroves and their importance to life in marine areas. The coastline sinks further into the ocean year by year as a direct result of the high proportion of the diminishing mangroves that buoy Yelibuya. Many community elders and members are aware of the necessity to maintain the trees. In efforts to find a way to save the mangroves, new ideas on sustainable farming are being implemented throughout the country.

The Dangers of Losing the Mangroves

The ocean is starting to swallow Yelibuya like a fish swallows a lure. As the essential mangrove trees disappear from deforestation, the island seems to be sinking into the ocean, causing further erosion. Fresh food and water are imported, but because of its location near Sierra Leone’s capital, its main profit for Yelibuya comes from fish, salt and rice farming.

Over-harvested or dying trees means the soil, which was once reinforced by mangrove roots, is beginning to crumble away, leading to landslides and the destruction of homes and the shoreline. Elders in the central town of Yelibuya estimate that they have lost 300 meters of coastline over the last 30 years. Many of the inhabitants would leave if they could, but they cannot abandon their families or businesses.

As the island sinks, the tides rise and erode groves of trees, making it difficult for more trees to grow. A disaster in 2017, the Freetown landslide, wiped out many homes and killed more than 1,000 people. The primary protection against rising ocean is Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves, which also double as the main source for heat and fuel since Yelibuya possesses no alternative fuel.

Solutions to preserve Sierra Leone’s dying Mangroves

Over the last 30 years, the size of global mangrove forests in hectares had decreased from 167,700 to 100,000 as of 2005. As more renewable energy and alternative farming options become available, however, this number can turn around. In fact, the rate of deforestation had already decreased from the 1990s compared to the 1980s.

Recent projects introduced by a branch of USAID in West Africa partnered with rice farmers to integrate mangroves into their fields (agro-silviculture) instead of cutting down trees to build fences. Though the plan was met with apprehension by some community members, many were excited by the idea of not harvesting trees each year. In 2017, 55 percent of farmer pledged to use agro-silviculture in their rice farms. As of June 2018, the selected areas for the rice agro-silviculture case study in Sierra Leone are reaping the benefits of healthier lands from preventing soil erosion.

Increasing Sustainability

The Ramsar Convention on Biological Diversity is an inter-governmental treaty studying ways to improve the coastline biodiversity and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone. Ramsar is looking into work on water policies and other strategies in the country, such as sustainable development, energy, poverty reduction and food security. It is working to develop and integrate programs such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Sierra Leone’s Vision 2025 and the Food Security Framework that directly link poverty and its effect on the environment.

In 2000, when Sierra Leone officially contracted with Ramsar, it was believed that “traditional fishing and agro-forestry for fuelwood can be sustainably managed in collaboration with an existing EU-funded Artisanal Fishing Community Development Program.” The goals of the convention are to promote sustainability in coastline development, poverty reduction and the introduction of alternative fuels. All of these goals would contribute to the preservation of Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves.

Maintaining Sustainability

A report released in 2016 shows that 1 percent of the mangroves in Sierra Leone Coastal landscape disappear each year. It is essential to find alternative fuels so that Yelibuya’s inhabitants can support the growth of the mangroves rather than depend on them for firewood too. Many other communities found ways to introduce new methods of fueling and construction, and the availability of these new methods for Yelibuya will determine its adaption to using mangroves as environmental protection rather than fuel.

Overall, Sierra Leone recognizes the wetland and mangrove crisis, and many inhabitants show eagerness to adopt new mangrove-friendly fuel options. The magnitude of Yelibuya’s sinking problem illustrates a connection between poverty and the inaccessibility of alternative fuels and how these two problems impact the land and marine life. Hopefully, as awareness spreads and new methods are adopted, the roots of mangroves will grow to sustain the buoyant communities that depend on these trees.

Hannah Peterson

Photo: Flickr

FGM Sierra Leon
Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone has recently become a topic of conversation both nationally and internationally since it is one of the 28 African countries that still partake in the practice. The World Health Organization officially described female genital mutilation (FGM) as “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The procedure usually involves some kind of cutting or removing of the genital flesh of a female as part of the initiation into womanhood. Several organizations are spreading awareness of the devastating results of this barbaric procedure and working to end this practice once and for all.

Why FGM Occurs?

The reasons for the procedure of FGM depend on the culture, they but usually fall into four categories: psychosexual, as a way to control female sexuality and maintain virginity; sociological and cultural, the practice is viewed as a vital tradition to the cultural heritage; hygiene and aesthetics, as some communities view the external female genitalia as unappealing and unclean; and finally, socio-economic factors since FGM is often a pre-requisite for marriage and the right to inherit.

The procedure is often performed with penknives, razors or even cut glass, and can result in severe pain, bleeding, cysts, infections, complications in childbirth, infertility and in extreme cases, death. The initiation can also often result in psychological issues from the trauma and pain of the event as well as from the inability to experience sexual pleasure thereafter. An estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone the procedure worldwide, with a staggering 90 percent in Sierra Leone.

Challenges in Stopping the Practice

The practice is ingrained into the culture and holds high social significance. In fact, 69 percent of women and 46 percent of men aged 15-49 believe in the continuation of the practice. FGM has been viewed as an initiation into womanhood and has been an important cultural touchstone for the people of Sierra Leone. This makes it difficult to stop the practice, as many see it as socially embarrassing and being unworthy of marriage if they have not received the initiation.

Another challenge faced to end FGM is that many Soweis, who usually perform the initiation, refuse to end the practice as they see it as a threat to the traditions of the Bondo society. They also receive large amounts of money for the initiations and do not want to lose this source of income.

Organizations Working to End FGM

The Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM) is a non-governmental organization aiming to end the procedure. It was founded in 2002 by Rugiatu Turay, a victim of FGM herself, and many other women while living in a refugee camp in Guinea during the Sierra Leon’s civil war. AIM activists visit villages and speak with the women who perform this procedure and try to convince them to give it up. They have convinced 700 practitioners from 111 villages to stop practicing FGM.

AIM believes that one of the most efficient ways to begin the ending of practice is to teach women how to read and write since most of the procedures are performed by illiterate elder women. Providing them with the knowledge to read and write will open opportunities for them to pursue alternate means of income and reduce their interest in performing FGM.

Another non-governmental organization, AMNet, is fighting against the old fashioned initiation rite. AMNet works with Soweis, the senior female community members, to change the social stigmas surrounding women in regards to FGM in local communities. The group has high profile supporters like Sia Koroma, the first lady of Sierra Leone, which helps bring attention to their cause.

Legislation is Needed

Non-governmental organizations are working hard to provide knowledge on the issues surrounding FGM, but formal legislation against the practice will further help end the societal pressures and stigmas that encourage the continuance of the initiation rite. Several countries have banned the practice, including more than 20 countries in Africa and most Western European countries. Ending the practice has also become a part of the United Nations 2030 sustainable development agenda.

Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone is not yet illegal, though progress is being made to eradicate the procedure. The country recently ratified the African Unions 2003 Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights, stating in Article Five of the protocol that female genital mutilation should be prohibited by the government in order to finally end the procedure.

Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone has been a huge cultural touchstone for many communities. The procedure, though, is highly dangerous for females in many areas of their mental and physical health. Many of the activists fighting to end the procedure recognize that immediate ending of the practice will not work, but could lead to underground practices, as the social and cultural significance of the initiation is far too important to many communities. Instead, they hope to use education to spread awareness about the harms of the practice, hopefully, changing opinions over time with respect to cultural significance.

Mary Spindler
Photo: Flickr

A Brief History of Ebola in Sierra Leone
The history of Ebola in Sierra Leone can be traced back to December of 2014. The illness started out slow and unsuspecting as it crept across the land until really solidifying its grasp in May and June.  From then on, the cases of Ebola continued to increase at an exponential rate.

The First Case and Subsequent Infection

The first case was that of an eighteen-month-old boy from a small village in Guinea. He was thought to have been infected by bats in the region. Soon after, other reports of Ebola-like symptoms became rapidly apparent. In March alone, there had been a reported 49 cases and 29 deaths.

One of the next infected was a house guest to the family of the index patient. She traveled home to Sierra Leone from Guinea unknowingly carrying the Ebola virus with her. She died shortly after her return due to the disease; however, her death was not investigated or reported until two other members of her family died.

The epidemic really began to flourish after the death of an infected traditional healer. The healer would treat Ebola patients across the border in Guinea but was a resident of Sierra Leone.

She eventually succumbed to the disease and a funeral service was held on her behalf; this is where the spread in Sierra Leone really increased. Thirteen women, all of whom attended the funeral, contracted the disease and eventually died as well.

A Death-Giving Funeral

Investigation processions commenced proceeding the funeral induced infections and it was found that 365 Ebola-related deaths started from that very funeral. It was also recognized that there were two strands of the virus present amongst the infected from the funeral.

In knowing the two variations of Ebola, researchers were able to retrospectively look for and trace the disease in blood samples. This made the containment of Ebola in Sierra Leone and respective infected regions much easier.

By the summer of 2014, the major town of Kailahun and its neighboring city Kenema were declared to be in a state of emergency. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other affiliated aid agencies provided and concentrated their response teams in the area.

The Ebola Epidemic

Unfortunately, the unsatisfactory public health infrastructure, the impoverished living conditions and the lack of preparedness aided the rapid spreading of the disease. By halfway through July, the aid teams from the World Health Organization buried over 50 bodies in the span of just 12 days in Kailahun alone.

Approximately two years after the first Ebola case was discovered, there were 28,600 cases and a resulting 11,325 deaths reported. The epidemic finally came to an exhausted end when Sierra Leone declared itself officially Ebola-free in March 2016.

Constant Vigilance

Unfortunately, the history of Ebola in Sierra Leone has continued in 2018 as the virus reared its ugly head again in May. The vigilance in regards to Ebola in Sierra Leone improved tremendously over the years since the first epidemic but it is still quite difficult to contain and extinguish.

Countless families and civilians still face the mental effects of the calamity from both the initial epidemic and the most recent devastation.

– Samantha Harward

Photo: Flickr

top ten facts about poverty in sierra leonePoverty has held a tight grip on Sierra Leone for as long as most people can remember. Sierra Leone remains one of the least developed low-income countries in the world. With a population of around six million people, the level of poverty is vast. The poverty status is well-known, although not many people know its extent or how it became this way. To clarify, here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone.

Key Facts About Poverty in Sierra Leone

  1. Sierra Leone’s social, economic and political unrest began around the time they gained independence from the British in 1961. This led to many economic and political challenges.
  2. In 1991, the state of Sierra Leone was devastated by extreme brutality when a civil war broke out as a result of a rebel group’s attempt to overthrow the government in power. Over 50,000 civilians were killed and an estimated two million were displaced.
  3. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, poverty alleviation has been a priority for the region; however, the level of poverty still remains high at its impact on 50-60 percent of the population.
  4. Most of Sierra Leone is rural communities with a few urban exceptions like the capitol, Freetown. Poverty levels in the rural areas have been gradually declining but remain relatively stagnant in the more urban communities.
  5. Sierra Leone has made considerable progress in the economy as a result of poverty alleviation efforts. The growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 4.5 percent to 5.3 percent in 2010. It has been projected that the economy will grow 6 percent on average every year.
  6. The impoverished conditions are also not always the people’s fault. The region is prone to natural disasters, climate change and epidemics. Climate change alone can cause an annual loss between $600 million and one billion. It also leads to heightened pollution and the devastation of critical crops.
  7. Another one of the top ten facts about poverty in Sierra Leone is that it is heavily dependent on aid. An estimated 50 percent of public investment programs are being financed by foreign sources.
  8. The progress of poverty alleviation was halted by the Ebola outbreak of 2014. The outbreak ravaged the area and hit the economy with a decrease of almost 3 percent in average growth rate.
  9. USAID, since the civil war, has been aiding Sierra Leone specifically in gaining political stability and strengthening democratic governance. Maintaining stability will help ensure the proper development of the region as well as maintain peace and security.
  10. The educational completion levels are low in the region with more than half of the people over the age of fifteen having never attended school. In general, the access to public services such as education is very low.

Projected Progress

Sierra Leone, while being underdeveloped, is still a very young country. There is progress each year that will only continue from here. Many foreign aid agencies are invested in the progression of poverty alleviation in Sierra Leone and wish to assure peace and security.

– Samantha Harward
Photo: Flickr

Media Misrepresents Sierra Leone
Governmental corruption, poverty and civil war have been the headlines claiming Sierra Leone’s existence for the past several decades. Whether violence in the streets or questionable policies behind closed doors, the country has not been well displayed or talked about in the media.

Phrases such as “grotesque human rights violations” fill newsfeeds across the globe, giving the international audience a limited look into the country, its people and current development as a nation. The media misrepresents Sierra Leone in numerous ways, but the inevitable takeaway is clear: Sierra Leone is a country with severe issues.

How the Media Misrepresents Sierra Leone

While it is true that Sierra Leone suffers from human rights violations, poverty, underdevelopment and even governmental corruption, these headlines do not tell the whole story. Yes, Sierra Leone has struggled and continues to face obstacles; however, positive development is visible in many regards. As Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region explains, “headcount poverty has been reduced from 66 percent in 2003 to about 52 percent” in 2014. Though poverty still affects about half the nation, a downward trend since the end of the civil war marks great potential overall.

Even the current status of Sierra Leone — a nation undergoing a peacekeeping mission headed by the United Nations (U.N. — is reason for optimism. A long and destructive civil war no longer affects the nation as it once did, and in its absence, progress is being made. Under the U.N.’s watch, Sierra Leone has been able to increase its financial return in the diamond industry and use the money for positive economic growth in a time of peace rather than weapon amassing during civil war.

Within this era of peace-building — which began in 1999 — more than 75,000 ex-fighters were disarmed, which included about 7000 child soldiers. This not only allowed for community rehabilitation, but it also ushered in a new time of democratic decision-making. Even more impressive than this is that the U.N. was able to remove itself from the country and end its peacekeeping mandate in 2005, only six years after the program’s initiation. Since then, the country has been able to remain relatively peaceful, though government issues and public tension still persist.

Human Rights and Education

While violence and civil war are vivid memories of a recent past, Sierra Leone has devoted much energy to emphasizing the discussion around human rights. The creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a judicial body dealing with the prosecution of human rights violations, signifies a concrete shift towards assessing the damages of the past.

This court not only seeks to alleviate lasting injustice, but also hopes to establish a precedent for the nation’s future and its dealings with human rights. While the media continues to misrepresent Sierra Leone, tangible advancement can be seen when one takes a more in depth look.

Education in Sierra Leone has also been a point of concern. As Human Rights Watch reported in 2018, pregnant girls are widely barred from schools due to motherhood. While there is no doubt that issues in female education exist throughout the country, there are still examples in this area of concern where the media misrepresents Sierra Leone.

Female education, while in need of alteration, has made substantial progress in recent years. Not only was Sierra Leone able to redesign the “Education Sector Plan” in 2007, but it has also witnessed the creation of an annuel “Girls Education Week” and organizations that work on behalf of female education, such as Girls Child Network. These recent developments have given girls and women alike throughout Sierra Leone places where they can receive quality information and education, the resources and tools to pursue such opportunities and the atmosphere where such a mission is understood and valued.

A New Era

While it should be understood that the country continues to face issues nationwide, it is important to realize how the media misrepresents Sierra Leone and its current development. To say there is no progress being made is simply incorrect. Positive change is underway and shows signs of success at all levels.

Though this development may be slow, there is hope in eventually resolving the issues of the past and present. While Sierra Leone is still suffering, an era of peace and prosperity is not out of the question.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Sierra LeoneThe nation of Sierra Leone is located on the western coast of Africa with a population of approximately 7,076,641. Since gaining independence from the British Empire on April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone has faced serious challenges in the social, economic and political spheres. Stemming from these challenges, the following are 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Poverty in Sierra Leone

  1. In Sierra Leone, the life expectancy is 39 years for men and 42 for women. These premature deaths are due to limited access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and hygiene and food insecurity. Malnutrition also remains an important contributor to infant morbidity and mortality with 34.1 percent of children under the age of five stunted and 18.7 percent underweight due to food insecurity.
  2. Sierra Leone has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.662, ranking it 137 out of 146 countries in 2011. Significant gender-based inequality exists in all aspects of life including reproductive health, emotional empowerment, economic activity and governmental representation. Only 9.5 percent of adult women reach secondary or higher level education compared to 20 percent of their male counterparts.

    In 2007, the government introduced three gender laws aimed at reducing gender inequality. These acts show progress but enacting and implementing practices of gender equality remain minimal. The president has also given his support to the national campaign for a minimum quota of 30 percent of women in political decision making positions, but the number remains low at only 13.2 percent.
  3. Around 70 percent of youth are unemployed or underemployed. The youth population, aged 15 to 35, makes up one-third of the population of Sierra Leone. This challenge was a major root cause of the outbreak of civil conflict within Sierra Leone. One of the leading reasons for these high rates of unemployment is the persistence of illiteracy and the lack of formal education to provide skills to compete for the limited jobs available.
  4. Approximately 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live below the national poverty line. Remaining among the world’s poorest nations, ranking 180 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, more than 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live on less than $1.25 a day.
  5. Sierra Leone has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, at an estimated 1,165 deaths per 100,000. According to a report released by the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from partners, the main causes of maternal deaths were largely bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension, infection and unsafe abortions. Almost 20 percent of maternal deaths were among teenagers 15 to 19 years of age.
  6. Sierra Leone holds only a 41 percent adult literacy rate. Many of the schools in Sierra Leone were built shortly after gaining independence and have had little expansion since, leading to inadequate facilities. Government funding for education is extremely limited, making improvements difficult. A lack of education not only diminishes the availability of contemporarily trained skilled laborers and professionals but also negatively affects the agriculture industry where poor farming practices compound with climate change in a cycle of degradation.
  7. Sierra Leone was ravaged from 1991 to 2002 by civil war. Civil war erupted in 1991 after a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front attempted to overthrow the country’s Joseph Momoh Government. The war lasted until 2002, by which time over 50,000 people had died and over two million had been displaced.But, even in the face of these 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone, peace has been fostered within the nation. Since the enactment of a U.N. Peacekeeping intervention on January 18, 2002, Sierra Leone remains firmly on the path toward further consolidation of peace, democracy and long-term sustainable development.
  8. Sierra Leone remains heavily dependent on foreign aid. Although positive economic growth has steadily occurred over the past decade since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone continues to rely on foreign aid. About 50 percent of public investment programs are financed by external resources.
  9. Recovery and development are being threatened by climate change. Employment in agriculture remains the backbone for citizens’ income in Sierra Leone. Climate change leads to low yields of critical crops and a potential annual loss of between $600 million and $1.1 billion in crop revenues by the end of the century. Resources such as water, soil and forests are being threatened by the ever-growing population, increasing energy consumption, mining activities, the pollution of rivers and massive deforestation related to agricultural practices.
  10. A largely unchanged economic structure with low levels of productivity and major reliance on agriculture hold back further economic recovery. Agriculture provides employment for about 75 percent of the rapidly growing population, but its continuation is threatened by unproductive farming techniques and climate degradation. The country’s infrastructure remains poorly maintained and because of business climate shortcomings stemming from economic instability, there is only a small private sector to spur further economic growth.

These 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone are far from the whole story. The country has made tremendous strides since the cessation of conflict to establish stable governance and to facilitate peace and security. Sierra Leone should be cited as a success story in peacebuilding.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Recovery Efforts in Sierra LeoneBeginning in 2014, the small West African country of Sierra Leone was subject to a devastating Ebola outbreak. By 2016, the outbreak was mostly contained, but due to the highly infectious and lethal nature of Ebola, the nation experienced a variety of long-term impacts. Between 2014 and 2016, there were 29,000 reported cases and over 11,300 deaths throughout West Africa. Of note, Sierra Leone lost 7 percent of its healthcare workers as a result of the outbreak.

Economic Damages

The Ebola crisis carved out a massive chunk of Sierra Leone’s economy. At the height of the outbreak in 2015, 9,000 wage workers and 170,000 self-employed workers lost their jobs. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reported a combined $2.2 billion in losses as a result of the societal and economic damages caused by the Ebola outbreak, with Sierra Leone shouldering an estimated $1.9 billion of this amount. By the conclusion of the outbreak, Sierra Leone had experienced a significant reduction of cross-border trade, agricultural output and private sector growth.

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness Meetings

Over the past two years, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has provided Sierra Leone with a variety of agricultural aid platforms that have contributed to Ebola recovery efforts. From March 15 to March 19, 2017, the FAO held a succession of agricultural disaster preparedness meetings in conjunction with Sierra Leone’s Office of National Security (ONS). According to the FAO representative on hand, these meetings were designed to Increase the resilience of livelihoods from disasters.” They focused on agricultural disaster resistance (to floods in particular) but were intended to potentially bleed into a variety of other sectors to ensure that Sierra Leone’s economy becomes more resilient as a whole to national crises.

Support for Women’s Farming Co-ops

Women were disproportionately impacted by the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. To aid in women empowerment, the FAO supported an initiative to provide funding for women-led farming co-ops. Local female-led farming groups testified that the funding allowed for a rebound in crops after the Ebola crisis. These, among a variety of other initiatives, have solidified the FAO as a key player in supporting Ebola recovery efforts in Sierra Leone.

USAID Cash Transfers for Small Businesses

USAID, with the help of local NGOs, is another key player that has assisted with Ebola recovery efforts in Sierra Leone by contributing cash transfers to small businesses. These transfers have reached 360,000 vulnerable people in the region, which has aided them in regaining their footing after the Ebola crisis. Alongside these cash transfers, USAID has contributed vouchers for seeds that have resulted in increased output for the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone.

With assistant from national and international organizations like the FAO and USAID, Ebola recovery efforts in Sierra Leone have boosted cross-border trade, agricultural output and private sector growth.

– Ian Greenwood
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Sierra LeoneAs is true in many countries around the globe, female education in Sierra Leone has lacked greatly throughout the nation’s history. Remnants of severe educational inequality still persist with males leading their female counterparts in literacy rates at all levels of education. While the country as a whole faces extreme poverty, it is females who suffer the most. In times of desperation, many young women are forced to leave school in order to work at home or find a husband. As a result, the current state of girls’ education in Sierra Leone is underemphasized and unjust, however, we may be embarking on a new era in female empowerment.

A Turning Point for Sierra Leone

The last decade has proved to be a turning point for the nation and its female population. Beginning in 2007, Sierra Leone became a member of the Global Partnership for Education. Through its commitment to the organization and the reciprocal aid received in the process, Sierra Leone was able to redesign its Education Sector Plan and offer new resources to females across the country.

This new plan not only focused on increased access to free pre-primary education (ages three to five) but also enhanced its commitment on the backend, strengthening equitable access to senior education by providing more scholarships to female students. As the country enters into more formal relationships with international groups, such as the U.K. Department for International Development, girls’ education in Sierra Leone is undergoing a remarkable transition.

Improving Girls’ education in Sierra Leone

In addition to government-sponsored relief, other organizations have also implemented innovative programs that increase the focus on girls’ education in Sierra Leone and create an atmosphere where such a focus is of utmost concern. UNICEF now annually supports a Girls’ Education Week which is formally run by the Education Ministry. The fact that such a program is now receiving national attention demonstrates the changing public attitude in regard to girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

Girl Child Network, a nonprofit organization that works around the globe, is currently implementing crucial outlets for girls to be protected, be treated as individuals and be able to receive quality educational materials throughout Sierra Leone. The organization offers leadership training programs, which aim to build confidence in young women and girls.

It is also currently implementing Girls Empowerment Villages that offer a place of refuge where abused girls can stay. Now protected, these girls have the ability to pursue education and receive quality information that is disseminated within the villages.

Effects of Girls’ Access to Education

While relief and equal access programs are vital in transforming girls’ education in Sierra Leone, it is important to see the true effectiveness of this recent movement. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the gender gap between primary enrollment and primary completion rate has decreased since 2012. While the male enrollment rate has not changed dramatically, female enrollment has been on a steady increase and completion rates have skyrocketed.

As of now, improvements to girls’ education in Sierra Leone are still underway and the eventual outcome cannot yet be determined. However, the success of recent years and the amount of campaigns and groups that continue to operate on behalf of girls and their education nationwide is promising. National commitment to this movement, combined with international aid, is creating the foundation for a stable future in female education in Sierra Leone.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr