Charities Aiding Children in Sierra Leone
Life has been extraordinarily difficult for children living in Sierra Leone. An 11-year civil war, Ebola outbreak and poor quality of education have severely impacted children across the country. However, despite the hardship that children in the country have faced over the past 20 years, charities are working to improve education and health care for children in Sierra Leone.

4 Charities Aiding Children in Sierra Leone

  1. Save the Children. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Save the Children provides children with education and health support in more than 100 countries. Since 1999, it has worked in Sierra Leone to improve the health, education and protection of children in the country. In terms of learning, the organization provides children with educational tools and facilities to set them up for future employment. The children’s rights charity focuses on increasing school attendance and retention. Due to widespread poverty, Sierra Leone suffers from very low school attendance rates with a UNICEF statistic illustrating that only 22% of students complete upper secondary school. Absence from school prevents children from gaining employable skills that allow for an economically independent future. Save the Children puts focus on aiding the most marginalized children, such as those living in slums or in kinship care, to improve their future prospects and avoid contributing to already high unemployment and illiteracy rates.
  2. Sierra Leone War Trust for Children. Throughout Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war, many children experienced both physical and mental trauma. The Sierra Leone War Trust For Children is a trust that promotes “education, health, rehabilitation and self-sufficiency” among children impacted by the nation’s history of violence so that they can live economically independent and prosperous lives as adults. The trust not only focuses on the harms of the civil war; it also aids children suffering from more recent issues in the country such as the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Ebola orphans have received school supplies from the trust’s projects to improve education and ensure future employability. The Sierra Leone War Trust For Children has aided 5,000 impoverished children in the country and has raised more than $1 million through donations.
  3. Lilomi. Lilomi is a children’s charity based in the U.K. that ensures better health care and educational facilities/resources for children in Sierra Leone. It works at the Jonathan’s Child Care school and orphanage in the city of Bo providing safe sanitary spaces and higher-quality school equipment, among other efforts. Inadequate access to hygiene and sanitation facilities remains a prevalent issue in Sierra Leone. The Lilomi team built a new set of hygienic toilet blocks in the school/orphanage in 2021 with the aim of protecting children against preventable illnesses. Schools across Sierra Leone are severely underequipped making it difficult for educational facilities to teach practical skills. In order to prevent this from limiting the horizons of children in Bo, in 2019, Lilomi provided the school/orphanage with funds for science equipment, now expanding the scope of learning in science and mathematics. Following this success, the charity has made plans to go one step further and build a science lab for the school.
  4. SOS Children’s Villages. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit organization that has delivered support for children and young adults in Sierra Leone since 1974. The nonprofit organization provides children lacking parental care with a safe home. As a result of the civil war ending in 2002, a third of Sierra Leone became internally displaced and many children lost their families. SOS Children’s Villages helps children to find lost relatives so they can grow up with their families. In the case where a child has no relatives, the organization provides an SOS parent who supports them through difficult periods of adjustment. The organization also runs community schools and kindergartens that have given 3,000 children access to education.

Children-focused charities in Sierra Leone have made monumental efforts in combating the consequences of civil war, Ebola and widespread poverty. By prioritizing the safety of children across the country, charitable organizations can ensure a future generation of healthy and prosperous adults.

– Freddie Trevanion
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has found itself in a dire situation with a 10-year civil war and a mass outbreak of Ebola. Despite this, some have been implementing large-scale charitable efforts. By prioritizing sanitation, gender equality and safety for children, charities operating in Sierra Leone can help dramatically improve living conditions in Sierra Leone. Here is information about five charities operating in Sierra Leone.


WaterAid is a charity that provides clean water and sanitary spaces to impoverished countries. Sierra Leone suffered from a mass outbreak of Ebola from 2014-2016. Statistics from WaterAid show that less than one in four households had access to wash their hands and one in 14 had access to soap. With poor sanitary spaces, the people of Sierra Leone suffered greatly with more than 14,000 cases of Ebola. A lack of clean water also results in the prevalence of diarrhoeal-related illnesses with more than 700 children under the age of 5 dying from the illness every year. WaterAid aims to provide clean water, toilets and other sanitary products to prevent the devastating impacts of various diseases. Through funding the construction of taps dispensing clean water, WaterAid strives to give the people of Sierra Leone access to clean water.

Sierra Leone War Trust For Children

Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war forced many young children to fight and see things beyond their years. Established in 1999, the Sierra Leone War Trust For Children aids those children most affected by the civil war and helps them find a safe future. Project funding has prioritized children’s health and education to give young children the best chance at a healthy and fulfilled life. Since its establishment, the charity has raised more than $1 million and has helped more than 5,000 Sierra Leonean children. Current projects involve giving aid to Ebola orphans who have lost parents and donating school supplies to improve the quality of education in the country. By giving children important skills, they have a better chance of finding employment in the future and growing the economy.

British Red Cross

The British Red Cross is a charity that strives to end human suffering around the world. The charity prioritizes education as a key to the nation’s health. For example, Red Cross volunteers visit households to educate families on disease prevention techniques. By giving Sierra Leonean people essential knowledge about the spread of disease, the risk of another outbreak is much lower. As a result of COVID-19, domestic abuse of women in Sierra Leone has been an increasing problem. Through cash grants, the British Red Cross has also emphasized the provision of education, medical attention and job opportunities to women suffering from domestic abuse.

Aberdeen Women’s Center

Charities operating in Sierra Leone are necessary to provide aid for women in society. The Aberdeen Women’s Center, operating in Freetown Sierra Leone, aids women who have suffered from female genital mutilation (FGM). The charity has gained significant popularity since it started in 2010 and the maternity ward now delivers more than 3,000 babies a year. By ensuring safe childbirth for young women, the charity is working to set a precedent by encouraging safety for women post-childbirth. With support from the Aminata Maternal Foundation (AMF), the charity also helps adolescent females post-childbirth learn employable skills and find a career path. Aberdeen Women’s Center is working to create a long line of healthy and economically stable women in a Sierra Leonean society where they are often marginalized.


UNICEF aims to increase safety for children in Sierra Leone by providing greater access to education and health spaces. It realizes the unprecedented circumstances children, especially girls, are facing, which is why the charity is a part of the “Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.” This initiative has the goal of protecting adolescent mothers.

Due to extreme poverty, school attendance in Sierra Leone is low. UNICEF statistics show that only 44% of students complete lower secondary school, and even fewer complete an upper secondary education – 22%. The high frequency of teenage pregnancies and marriages has contributed significantly to these low numbers. According to UNICEF data from 2015, 30% of females married before the age of 18, and one in 10 teenage girls was pregnant. Moreover, high illiteracy and a lack of economic independence have led to women lacking a political voice in Sierra Leone. To stop this cycle from repeating, UNICEF is working on getting more girls into school by financially aiding The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE). The MBSSE supports a bridge program to help adolescent mothers re-enroll.

The Road Ahead

Overall, these charities in Sierra Leone have made monumental strides. By prioritizing sanitation, education and medication, these charities are greatly helping those in poverty. Although the country has a long way to go to escape widespread poverty, the efforts of these charities will contribute to a more prosperous future for Sierra Leone’s citizens.

– Freddie Trevanion
Photo: Flickr

Sierra Leone’s parliament passed two new laws on August 8, 2022. Both laws specifically give rural landowners more rights to control their land against large mining and agricultural businesses. The new laws will force those working on another’s land or utilizing the land to compensate the landowners adequately. Currently, the landowners receive $2.50 per used acre, but the new laws allow for proper negotiation over pricing.

Sierra Leone’s Old Land Laws

Sierra Leone’s old land laws granted overarching power and decision-making of the land to the “paramount chiefs.” The chiefs are official authorities that receive their power from the Sierra Leone government and act as executors for the regions they serve. The chiefs can grant land rights to determine its value, and even the landowner cannot make decisions regarding the land without their chief’s consent.

Sierra Leone’s land laws have evolved, but the chief’s control over the leasing and usage of the land remained strong after the end of the Sierra Leone civil war in 2002. The war, which began over disputes about diamond mining by foreigners taking advantage of the local land and labor force, only strengthened the chief’s role. In the post-war era, the chiefs had more leeway with the actions they could take against land strangers or “non-natives.” Much of the descriptions on how to handle the non-natives came from the Land Ordinance Act of 1935.

The old land laws, while intended to assist the landowners, were outdated and due for an overhaul to provide economic relief and recognize the power of the rural landowners.

The Economic Strife of Sierra Leone’s Rural Population

Almost 70% of Sierra Leone’s population lives in rural or underdeveloped regions. Additionally, 53% of the population lives in poverty, making a scant $1.25 per day. The country is among the poorest in the world, ranking 181 out of 187 according to the Human Development Index report from 2019.

The primary impediment to potential earnings for local landowners was the governmental priority of international investment. The government struggled to counteract the damage of the civil war, but, in the meantime, other global investment companies increased their investment presence in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s international investors, such as the companies in the palm oil industry, were omnipresent in the rural areas. Unfortunately, the overall positive economic contributions to the region were minimal.

Sierra Leone’s old land laws allowed the international companies more control than the actual landowners. Once the non-native/international companies lease the land, the landowners do not have a say in the ongoing use of the land, and they cannot barter for more compensation. However, according to a 2009 policy document of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Farming, “Government will serve as an intermediary between the landowners/host communities and the foreign private investor. For that purpose, the Government will lease the land of interest to the foreign private investor from the landowners and, in turn, sub-lease it to the investor.”Although industries, like the palm oil industry, might have contributed some financial boosts, these industries have impacted the soil and land negatively enough that the land suffered soil erosion and environmental damage. Eroded soil may leave the owners unable to profit from the land once the previous companies have vacated.

Sierra Leone’s New Land Laws

Sierra Leone’s two new land laws are The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act. The new laws provide proper fiscal compensation to farmers and landowners who are currently underpaid. The new income will give extra income to the landowners during the dry season when farmers cannot earn enough to support the owners. Sierra Leone’s agriculture accounts for half of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and more than 60% of the country’s labor force. Without them, the country’s economy will collapse. Additionally, the Sierra Leone economy will collapse if the government does not support the farmers and landowners.

Thankfully, the land ministers and parliament members expect Sierra Leone’s new land laws to promote peace and end conflicts over land usage against the landowner’s will, guaranteeing income and stability for the landowners and workers. The concerns of losing livelihoods due to international investors will slowly end because the locals will have input regarding who may use their land and for what purposes. The new laws will prevent violations of human rights and labor laws. All local workers will be legal, and the workers will receive fair compensation. Sierra Leone’s new land laws will end the fears of corruption that have plagued Sierra Leone’s rural areas for decades.

Sierra Leone’s new land laws benefit rural landowners in many ways. The land is officially theirs to decide what can happen on it and to it. What the value of their land is, is up to them. The landowners have the opportunity to barter for financial compensation that lifts their income above  $1.25 per day. No international investor or non-native will come between economic freedom and Sierra Leone’s citizens with the enactment of Sierra Leone’s new land laws.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Sierra Leone
Government findings in 2020 report a 60% decline in average weekly profits for businesses operating in Sierra Leone. However, customer demand witnessed an 80% decline by late May. Around 60%-70% of businesses had “difficulties accessing suppliers.” The liquidity status of several businesses declined and 52% were behind or likely to fall behind on paying their rents. Employees reported momentary layoffs, while others experienced reductions in working hours, to reach around four to six hours. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is further exemplified through youth unemployment, which forced the closure or scaled down operations of many youth-owned businesses in Sierra Leone. Youth unemployment reached 60% in 2021 and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 4% in 2020.

Impact on Tourism Sector

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, 71,000 tourists visited Sierra Leone in 2019 and projections have stated that tourism generated $39.00 million corresponding to 0.93% of GDP. This is demonstrating the power tourism has on the country’s income and economy. With travel restrictions, the level of tourism fell by 77.3% in 2020 as per Ministry of Finance records. This pushed 97% of tourism businesses into experiencing a massive impact on operations. Besides that, 29% of them encountered either provisional or permanent closure.

Accordingly, it is evident that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is showcased through its direct ramifications on the country’s economic strength and employment rate, especially with 8,000 people working in the tourism sector indicating its importance in the development of Sierra Leone.

Food Security and Livelihood

Around 30% of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown live on less than $1 per day, the international poverty line standing at around $1.90 per day. Among 116 countries, Sierra Leone ranked 106 in the 2021 Global Hunger Index illustrating the severity of the food crisis. Recent 2022 records validate that 73% of the population is experiencing food insecurity, 11% of which are acutely food insecure. This illustrates direct challenges to human welfare and basic standards of living, especially as 74% of households reported using more than 75% of their income on food.

Economic Assistance

To build and encourage economic resilience, in 2020, the World Bank permitted the International Development Association to support Sierra Leone with a grant worth $100 million. Such financing supports the development of greater productivity in varying sectors including agriculture, a primary sector of Sierra Leone’s economy. In 2021, economic growth accounted for 3.1%, with agriculture contributing for half the rise.

To further sustain the government’s ability in delivering rudimentary human rights such as education and health care services in the midst of an economic crisis, in 2020 the European Union allocated €10 million in economic support. For instance, improvements in health care are evident in the infant mortality rate, declining from 78.643 for every 1,000 births in 2019 to 72.253 for every 1,000 births in 2022.

Supporting Unemployed Youth

In 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a vocational training program in Sierra Leone worth $4.3 million to close the gap between labor and the necessary skills the market demands. This program has reached out to 940 participants thus far and seeks to eradicate unemployment in the country by developing skilled labor, thereby fostering a population capable of initiating independent economic growth, according to IOM.

A similar effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) promoted inclusive growth among rural areas in Sierra Leone. The UNDP trains youth with a skillset that advances their employability prospects in a globalized world.

Partnering with Restless Development and the Institute of Development and Humanitarian Assistance-IDHA, the UNDP further issued grants to over 1,000 youth business owners to preserve businesses from closing, as reported on its website. Business owners reported they have been able to grow their businesses, as well as offer employment opportunities.

Nutrition and Food Assistance

With collective effort from the European Union, the U.S. and China among other multilateral donors, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered food and nutritional support for around 540,000 people across Sierra Leone in 2021. To further support the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund Project, the WFP partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the development of inland valley swamps and create a continuous and lifelong food supply.

In January 2022, the OPEC Fund for International Development also provided contributions by extending two loans worth $35 million to curb hunger and encourage food security for 1.4 million Sierra Leoneans.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone has presented pronounced challenges on varying economic and social levels. However, with the right collective efforts such as UNDP grants, the economy can recover to allow its population to lead a prosperous future.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Unsplash

Rule of Law in Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone Army experienced a bloody civil war against the Revolutionary United Front from 1991 to 2002. At the time, the state of fragility and rule of law in Sierra Leone was abysmal. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) designed to end the civil war, almost collapsed in 2000 after the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) kidnapped hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers. To rescue UNAMSIL, the United Kingdom began a military intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, bringing the nation away from state failure. This military intervention defeated the RUF, ended Sierra Leone’s civil war and helped Sierra Leone develop a counterinsurgency doctrine. As the civil war ended, Sierra Leone has significantly democratized with three peaceful transfers of power since 2002.

Rule of Law

Today, Sierra Leone’s state of rule of law is magnitudes better than during the Sierra Leone civil war. While the country does have a basic judiciary system to enforce the law, corruption issues and unequal treatment of civilians still plague Sierra Leon’s court and policing system.

Sierra Leone’s police force suffers from a grave lack of accountability for extrajudicial killings and physical abuse. In December 2007, authorities did not hold any police officer to account for shooting and killing two demonstrators protesting a diamond mining company. Additionally, in 2012, authorities did not place blame on any police for the killing of two young men at Calaba Town without evidence that those young men had weapons. Sierra Leone police have also not received blame for shooting dead a motorcyclist they mistook for a bank robber in 2012. Sierra Leone has an endemic issue of police accountability and the Complaint Discipline and Internal Investigations Department (CDIID), a body designed to investigate police complaints is a body exclusively made up of police members. While this body has occasionally taken action for professional misconduct, the department has not investigated serious abuses or any of the abuses above.

Corruption in Sierra Leon’s Judiciary System

While Sierra Leone’s corruption in its judiciary system has improved, Sierra Leone’s court system still suffers from widespread corruption. The Sierra Leonean courts suffer from a lack of legitimacy as 32% of Sierra Leonean citizens say they trust the courts “somewhat” or “a lot” and 47% of Sierra Leone citizens say that “most” or “all” judges and magistrates are corrupt as of 2017. While defendants had the right to legal counsel, many defendants did not receive this right. The attorneys were often overworked and many defendants who could not pay for an outside attorney were not able to obtain pre-trial legal counsel or aid as of 2020. Luckily, Sierra Leone does not hold political prisoners and still maintains a relatively independent judicial system while the law, in theory, provides the right for every defendant in Sierra Leone to have a fair trial.


In terms of political institutions, Sierra Leone is relatively stable. Since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone has had three peaceful transfers of power in democratic elections. While Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions are functioning relatively well for a newer and poorer democracy, the threat of political violence is pervasive as 80% of Sierra Leoneans believe that politics almost always leads to violence.

Sierra Leone has come a long way since 1991. Fragility and rule of law in Sierra Leone today are orders of magnitude better than in 1991. The country has a relatively stable political landscape while suffering from an undercurrent of political violence as of 2022. Corruption permeates Sierra Leone’s criminal justice system and while in theory, every defendant receives the right to legal counsel, the system still does not equally apply it to all defendants in practice. Sierra Leone is relatively democratic with relatively free and fair elections and they have not suffered from mass political violence since the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Women in Sierra LeoneGender-based violence, discrimination and genital mutilation are some of the many challenges that women in Sierra Leone face. In comparison to males within the nation, a woman’s “voice, visibility, participation and representation in elective and appointment positions” is substantially less. Women in Sierra Leone face severe marginalization despite their significant “contributions to the economy” and the sustenance of their households.

Genital Mutilation

Active membership in “secret societies” has detrimental impacts on girls and women in Sierra Leone. These inconspicuous societies stand as  significant “cultural institutions” steeped in ancient rituals that Sierra Leoneans believe “protect communities against evil and guide adolescent girls to womanhood.” Sierra Leone holds “one of the highest rates of [female genital mutilation]” globally with 90% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 enduring the violating procedure. Female community members often perform genital mutilation procedures “without anesthetic,” using knives, razors and even shards of glass. Female genital mutilation, in addition to risks of extensive hemorrhaging, can result in a multitude of medical problems ranging “from infections and cysts to infertility and complications in childbirth.”

Gender-Based Violence

Almost 50% of Sierra Leonean females endure “sexual or physical violence during their lifetime.” Throughout the Sierra Leone Civil War, “widespread and systematic sexual violence against women and girls” was a common occurrence. This extreme brutality, often at the hands of rebel groups and Civil Defense Forces, affected girls and women of all ages. In terms of violence within domestic relationships, several factors play a role.

The first is that Sierra Leonean society sees certain types of violence in a relationship as warranted and acceptable. In addition, women who report cases of domestic violence face harsh judgment and shame from the community, which is why many choose to remain silent. The legal system also does not see cases of violence involving married women as a priority, but rather, a personal matter that requires a resolution within the confines of a home. In general, many citizens do not have faith in the legal system. The lack of competency within the fragmented legal system continues to generate leniency for perpetrators, contributing to the prevalence of abuse toward women.

Marginalization in the Workforce

Women in Sierra Leone have long generated significant advances in the economy and frequently serve a key part in ensuring their households’ survival. In rural Sierra Leone, women perform more than 60% of the agricultural work necessary for food production in the nation. Males, however, continue to have stronger opportunities for management and influence of the industry, ultimately demoting females to inferior jobs, according to USAID.

Barriers to Education

Girls are less likely to remain in school in comparison to boys due to factors such as child marriage, early pregnancy and gender roles that dictate a female must take on household responsibilities. Additionally, it is extremely rare for a female to continue her education after marriage or pregnancy — “less than 2%” of married females between the ages of 15 and 19 attend school. Due to these cultural norms, women in Sierra Leone are chronically undereducated, a factor that has far-reaching impacts.

Lack of Political Representation

Women in Sierra Leone confront significant challenges when joining the political arena. They face difficulty when navigating disproportionately male-dominated political structures, such as in “accessing male-dominated political networks and making allies, in financing election campaigns and in commanding respect.” Women also often face gender-based discrimination within the political domain. Lower levels of literacy as well as inadequate knowledge of rights and “political processes” further limits females’ capacity to participate on an equal ground alongside males and successfully advocate for fellow women.

The Good News

The Lady Ellen Women’s Aid Foundation (LEWAF-SL) is an autonomous, international non-governmental organization developed in 2008 but formally “established in 2014.” This group was formed in remembrance of Ellen Pauline Kise, a philanthropic humanitarian who died of cancer in 2008. LEWAF’s objective is to eradicate gender-based violence in Sierra Leone, dissolve inequality and ensure that societies treat women as valuable contributors deserving of dignity and respect. To accomplish this, the organization supports women through a four-pronged response:  prevention, protection, response and advocacy. LEWAF seeks to help women in Sierra Leone achieve equality and become empowered.

Despite the discrimination they endure, women in Sierra Leone can look to a brighter future as organizations empower them with the resources and skills to rise up against women’s rights violations and lift themselves out of poverty.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Unsplash

Water Quality in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small, tropical country located on the west coast of Africa. Despite its six-month “wet season,” characterized by 90% humidity and torrential rainfall, Sierra Leone struggles to provide quality drinking water to its citizens. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 98% of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean drinking water and that “most households lack basic sanitation.” Fortunately, there are many organizations, both internal and external, that are seeking to combat poor water quality in Sierra Leone. These organizations utilize five strategies to broaden access to clean water.

5 Strategies to Broaden Access to Clean Water

  1. Installing Wells. Many of the wells in Sierra Leone are dug by hand and are unable to reach underground aquifers where clean water is stored. For this reason, many nonprofit organizations, such as World Hope, Living Water and Sierra Leone Rising, are prioritizing efforts to install deeper wells in both urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone. Generally, the installation of a quality, long-lasting well costs about $11,000. To minimize the cost of developing these much-needed wells, World Hope and Sierra Leone Rising are teaming up, splitting the cost of building 20 wells. Between 2017 and 2018, World Hope drilled 45 wells in Sierra Leone and its neighboring country, Liberia. When people have local access to clean water wells, they are less prone to diseases and do not have to waste as much productive time seeking out potable water.
  2. Monitoring Local Water Sources. Many of the water sources in Sierra Leone are polluted and spread diseases to the people who drink from them. This is why the CDC is partnering with public health officials in Sierra Leone to better monitor water quality and respond to waterborne disease outbreaks. The CDC began guiding “public health staff” in 2018, successfully training 50 employees “to detect and respond to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.” Those 50 staff members went on to teach 500 other community members the same methods of water testing. As a result of these training sessions, new job opportunities are arising, the spread of waterborne illness is decreasing and water quality in Sierra Leone is improving nationwide.
  3. Expanding the Sanitation Sector. The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a foreign aid agency based out of the United States, working in Sierra Leone since 2015 in an effort to improve the country’s poor water quality. The program helped draft the first digital map of the water distribution system in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which will allow water companies to “better assess the water system’s performance” and “more efficiently address service delivery problems,” ultimately providing more Sierra Leoneans with access to clean, safe water. The nation also recently drafted blueprints to expand all water and sanitation services in urban areas and neighboring towns by 2023, aiming to reach all cities by 2030. With the expansion of the sanitation sector, improved water quality in Sierra Leone is inevitable.
  4. Developing Rainfall Collection Systems. During Sierra Leone’s six-month wet season, the country experiences torrential rains and flooding. However, “from November to April,” the country experiences a harsh dry season during which droughts and water shortages are commonplace. This is why the Freetown city mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, campaigned in 2021 to install “more than 160 rainwater harvesting systems” in rural areas outside of the capital. Each rainwater harvesting system has the capacity to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 liters of water, which means that citizens can harness excess water during the rainy season to use during the dry season droughts.
  5. Installing Public Latrines and Handwashing Stations. In an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is also working to install easily accessible latrines and handwashing stations throughout the city of Freetown. So far, she has built handwashing kiosks in 23 different marketplaces and has hired citizens to monitor each station and use a megaphone to remind shoppers of the importance of washing their hands. Many of the natural water sources in Sierra Leone are contaminated due to poor waste management and a lack of access to functional latrines. To help improve the water quality in Sierra Leone, the mayor is installing public bathrooms in addition to the handwashing kiosks. These public restrooms will help contain liquid and solid waste so that it does not seep into the nation’s water supply, significantly reducing the spread of disease.

Looking Ahead

Historically, Sierra Leone has faced many obstacles, including civil war, extreme seasonal weather and devastating outbreaks of the Ebola virus and COVID-19. However, the small African nation is taking great measures to improve the water quality in Sierra Leone so that its citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water all year round.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

In the past decade, microfinance has soared as a strategy to alleviate poverty. BRAC International, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations, supports microfinancing in seven countries in Africa and Asia. Importantly, BRAC’s microfinance program supports people to engage in financial activity to overcome poverty.


Microfinance is a financial practice that lends small sums to people with few means to support their small businesses. The goal is for small businesses to earn a profit and then pay back the loan. The microfinance institution then loans the capital out again. Through this cycle, people are able to rise out of poverty. Microfinancing frames poverty as the deprivation of the ability to participate in economic and political processes. By that logic, if people can obtain microloans, these individuals will engage in financial activity and overcome poverty.

Studies have only found limited evidence of the efficacy of microfinancing at eradicating poverty. However, the practice is far from a failure. Specifically, the capital lent to the impoverished provides stability in their lives, easing the day-to-day anxiety about monetary shortages. In addition, studies have found that people who take out microloans are motivated to invest more time into their businesses. Though not miraculously transformative, microfinancing has achieved overall positive results in reducing poverty.

BRAC Programs

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help refugees from the Bangladesh Liberation War. Since then, BRAC has created eight programs to empower people suffering from poverty, social injustice, illiteracy and disease. Microfinance is one of the eight programs of the organization. BRAC believes that the financial inclusion of impoverished people and communities is an essential step toward ending poverty.

More than 660,000 people benefit from BRAC’s microfinance program, which operates in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Along with loans, BRAC also provides financial literacy training to the borrowers. This teaches borrowers to be responsible with money and make better financial decisions. In addition to microfinance services, the organization also provides communities with programs like agriculture classes, youth education and health care. When paired with these programs, microfinance has an even greater impact on communities.

BRAC’s Focus on Women

More than 96% of BRAC’s borrowers are women. One female entrepreneur, Kadiatu Conteh from Sierra Leone, exemplifies how BRAC impacts its beneficiaries. Conteh’s sister introduced her to BRAC. At the time, Conteh’s family was struggling to make ends meet and she was trying to earn money by selling drinks with only a cooler. Conteh took out a loan and invested the money in more beverages for her business. Slowly, she increased her profits. After four years with BRAC, she accumulated enough funds to invest in her own store where she now sells household items.

Selina Karoli Fissoo also benefited from BRAC’s microfinance program. With other women in the city of Arusha, Tanzania, Fissoo formed a microfinance group to receive loans and financial literacy training from BRAC. She invested her first loan into her small grocery business, and as her profits increased, she applied for larger loans. After more than 10 years of working with BRAC, Fissoo has a large retail store and even dabbles in poultry farming.

The Benefits of Microfinance to Alleviate Poverty

Conteh and Fissoo are just two of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have prospered from the help of BRAC’s microfinance programs. Microloans provide stability in the lives of the impoverished and can motivate people to invest more time into their businesses. Especially when coupled with other programs, microfinance is an effective method for alleviating poverty.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jeremiah Thoronka
The night of November 10, 2021, marked an inspiring day for renewable energy innovations. Jeremiah Thoronka, a 21-year-old student from Sierra Leone, won the Global Student Prize at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. His invention, Optim Energy, utilizes kinetic energy from pedestrian and street traffic vibrations to produce clean, renewable energy. With $100,000 in prize money, he hopes to expand his responsible consumption practices and reach 100,000 people by 2030.

The Innovative 17-Year-Old

Jeremiah Thoronka was born into the chaos of the Sierra Leone war and his single mother raised him in a refugee camp. Firewood and coal, which produce photochemical smog, were the only energy sources available to his community, negatively impacting health and education. These adversities prompted his advocacy and creativity for renewable energy. He was only 17 when he first created Optim Energy, creating a unique kind of renewable energy because it does not rely on a battery or weather conditions, like wind and solar power. With a passion for renewable energy and robotics, Thoronka began to change the world.

His achievements continue to add to his already impressive list, exemplifying his incredible drive and hard work. Thoronka’s impact traces back to his studies at the Durham University and the African Leadership University where he pursued an honors “degree in Global Challenge with a focus on Energy and Sustainable Development.” He also took the position of Secretary-General of ALU Student Representative Council (2019-2020) and is the founder of the Sierra Leone Student Conservation Organization (SLSCO).

In Rwanda, Thoronka aided the Agahozo Youth Village in providing education and skills to orphans and vulnerable youth. The young innovator volunteers to teach children in his community how to pass the National Primary School Examination. He presents his research papers and workshops at world-renowned conventions, like the World Youth Forum or IRENA Innovation Week, as an author. In his writing, Thoronka focuses on the environment, renewability, youth leadership and entrepreneurship. He dedicates his work to building stronger communities and opportunities for those without them.

The Challenges of Energy Poverty in Sierra Leone

Energy poverty in Sierra Leone is severe, with only 6% of rural populations having access to electricity. The lack of power leads to a reliance on firewood and kerosene generators, both of which cause significant issues. Firewood leads to the destruction of forests, which puts Sierra Leone in danger of severe weather consequences from floods or landslides. Frequent house fires are common due to the use of cheap kerosene generators. The replacement of these energy sources would be beneficial for energy access and fire hazards, the environment and health. “By replacing the use of kerosene, it reduces the risk of fires from the combustible fuel source, reduces the negative impacts on health, increases productivity and can offset around 370kg of CO2 per year.”

Optim Energy

Today, Optim Energy is making strides toward improvements and expansion. It has generated power for 150 households and 15 schools, free of charge. Optim Energy has also grown into “a larger initiative aiming to shrink greenhouse gas emissions, educate citizens about energy efficiency and build a sustainable energy sector in Sierra Leone.” In 2019, there was a 5% improvement in energy access in “the local community grid in the rural area where [Thoronka] operates.” That is 3% above the average for Sierra Leone, which has risen by 65% since the early 2000s. The problem with this increase is how underdeveloped the nation’s energy systems are in meeting the population’s demand. Overall, in Sierra Leone, more than “89% of the population live without electricity and nearly 96% rely on traditional solid biomass for cooking.” Improvements that inventors like Jeremiah Thoronka create will aid the energy poverty in Sierra Leone.

Looking Ahead

Energy poverty is complex, and a solution will take years, yet innovations and creators make strides daily. Communities receiving an education that will spark leadership and ingenuity will create a new generation of out-of-the-box thinkers. Companies that are creating clean, renewable energy are expanding and improving. The future of energy access is bright. It will take collaboration to fight energy inequality. Until then, Jeremiah Thoronka will continue impressing the world and those he inspires will follow in his steps.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons