homelessness in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a country situated on the western coast of Africa where over half of the population lives below the poverty line. The occurrence of various crises and disasters has adversely impacted homelessness in Sierra Leone. The civil war that lasted over a decade from 1991 to 2002, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the 2017 mudslide have increased the homeless population in Sierra Leone. Three thousand people experienced displacement because of the mudslide in Freetown that killed over 1,000 people. In 2015, floods in Freetown displaced thousands and caused 10 fatalities.

3 Contributions to Homelessness in Sierra Leone 

Homelessness in Sierra Leone receives little attention from the nation’s political leaders. Assumptions determine that because of strong cultural and social traits, individuals can seek help from neighbors or extended family for shelter and housing needs. However, if friends and family have nothing to give, then those in need have nothing to receive. While the circumstances causing homelessness across the globe tend to be the same, the brutality of it in Sierra Leone differs in magnitude.

  1. Unemployment: An estimated 800,000 individuals between the age of 15-35 in Sierra Leone are actively in search of employment. Despite steady growth in the economy after the civil war, unemployment among youth and young adults is a major reason for homelessness. 
  2. Mental Health: According to the estimates by WHO, 10% of the population in Sierra Leone has mental health problems such as psychosis, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The government and private sector inadequately address mental health problems. Due to inadequate treatment, those battling mental health problems often end up on the streets without care and become homeless.
  3. Housing: The invasion of rebels in 1999 destroyed 5,932 houses in Freetown and neighboring areas of Kissy, Wellington, Calaba Town and Allen Town. The national estimate indicates that due to the internal rebellion, 300,000 homes experienced destruction and 1.2 million people either became internally displaced or fled. The lack of affordable housing or rental apartments adds to the challenges faced by the unemployed and renders them homeless. The government has initiated The New Housing Policy that works to ensure reform, resettlement and reconstruction.

Shelters Supporting the Homeless in Sierra Leone

Despite the inadequate support from the authorities, a handful of not-for-profit intervened to provide necessities along with shelter to the homeless persons. These include:

  • Don Bosco Fambul Shelter: Salesian missionaries initiated their support in 2001 by rehabilitating the former child soldiers. The Don Bosco Fambul Shelter in Freetown has become one of the leading organizations. It provides shelter, food, clothing, educational opportunities and counseling. During the Ebola crisis, it also transformed a school into a home for 120 boys. 
  • Sisterland Shelter: An NGO formed in Freetown Sierra Leone, the Sisterland Shelter aims to provide safe accommodation for women sleeping on streets with their children. It supports women by providing access to education or vocational training to make themselves employable as well as medical care.

To overcome the problem of homelessness in Sierra Leone, it is imperative to deal with the challenges of unemployment, lack of mental health awareness and lack of education; to do so, leaders must provide stronger systems for social support and healthcare. The government is taking a step in the right direction, though, by investing in housing infrastructure to tackle homelessness in Sierra Leone. 

Anandita Bardia
Photo: Unsplash

Education in Sierra LeoneMany important improvements in educational outcomes have occurred in Sierra Leone since 2015, especially for women and children. The country is bouncing back from the civil war, Ebola crisis and other serious challenges. This progress is partially owed to organizations that help children go to school. Several NGOs and community-based actors support education in Sierra Leone. Here is a small glimpse into the work of many.

4 Organizations Improving Education in Sierra Leone

  1. Street Child: Street Child’s goal is to improve the educational prospects of the world’s poorest and most marginalized children. Since its founding, the organization has helped more than 250,000 children escape poverty and go to school.  It originally started by improving education in Sierra Leone, where it began a project for 100 children in a small northern village. It has since expanded to serve children in ten other countries. Some of its work involves providing young girls with school supplies and giving families financial support. The organization also trains teachers and supplies classroom materials.
  2. Mother’s Club: After setbacks and challenges from the Ebola outbreak, mothers in Sierra Leone began organizing to ensure their children would receive a full education. Mother’s Clubs are village and community-based networks that sell products to fund their children’s schooling. Profits from farming, tye-dyeing, gardening and soap making pay for school supplies, books and uniforms. Thanks to these self-starters, with aid from international partners like UNICEF, communities can help drive positive educational outcomes.
  3. Girls Access to Education (GATE): Funded by U.K. Aid and its partners, Girl’s Access to Education (GATE) aims to help girls from disadvantaged households go to school and enables out-of-school girls to resume their education. Importantly, it also empowers communities to create their own solutions. The net enrollment rates in both primary and secondary education have consistently increased since 2013, due in part to their work. Where the literacy rate for girls ages 15-24 was less than 40% in 2005, that figure rose to 62.7% in 2018. The gap between male and female literacy rates continues to drastically decrease as well. This speaks to an overwhelmingly positive impact on Sierra Leone’s children and youth.
  4. Teach for All: Teach for All is a network of education partners and nonprofits who work together to help inspire change on a global scale. The organization announced Teach for Sierra Leone as its latest partner in July 2020. Similarly to other actors, Teach for Sierra Leone is community-driven and recognizes educational disparities in the country as an urgent issue. They aim to bridge education gaps by recruiting women and teachers from under-resourced schools whose efforts will help break the cycle of global poverty.

A Brighter Future

Overall, these organizations play a critical role in improving access to education in Sierra Leone. Currently, many schools have been disrupted due to COVID-19, but now radio lessons bridge the learning gap until reopening. So long as outside actors continue to provide foreign aid, assist in educational outcomes and empower communities, children in Sierra Leone will be able to reach their fullest potential.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

Psychosocial Recovery from Ebola in Sierra LeoneCommunity healing dialogues are proving effective in providing psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone by addressing the trauma and stigma that survivors face. These sessions give community members a forum to raise and address their concerns about problems in the community, promoting health, wellness and prosperity in both psychosocial, emotional and economic senses. The dialogues seek to erase the stigma and promote economic recovery via micro-enterprise groups.

Poverty and Public Health Challenges

Sierra Leone is a West African country with a population of 7.5 million. Life expectancy is approximately 52 years for women and 51 years for men. The top ten causes of death include malaria, neonatal disorders, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world (women have a one in 17 chance of dying from pregnancy or childbirth), in addition to one of the highest mortality rates for children under five. The country lacks a centralized public health system, and most people cannot access health care due to extreme poverty.

Support and Strides Amid Ebola

Sierra Leone had the highest number of fatal Ebola cases in the 2014-2016 outbreak. The disease’s severity prompted the CDC and NGOs like Partners in Health to provide resources and support. The CDC mounted its largest ever response to an outbreak in an individual country, providing services that included:

  • Epidemiological/strategical support
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Case management
  • Health promotion
  • Laboratory/diagnostic support
  • Emergency management
  • Border health
  • Research support

Partners in Health also provided emergency Ebola care and stayed in Sierra Leone after the outbreak to help strengthen the country’s public health system, staff, supplies and infrastructure. It has provided prenatal care, community health services, tuberculosis treatment, mental health care, blood banking and emergency medical services. The organization also established ongoing support systems for Ebola survivors. Strengthening Sierra Leone’s health system is an important means of both alleviating poverty and helping the country heal from Ebola. However, much work remains to be done.

Returning to Communities Through Healing Dialogues

Ebola is a disease with severe physical manifestations, but its social and psychological aftereffects can also be devastating and can help ensure that those affected remain in poverty.

In the words of one lifelong resident of Sierra Leone, “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa had the same psychological effects on individuals as war.”

Often, Ebola survivors are grieving for the deaths of their loved ones. At the same time, they face stigma and discrimination when trying to return to their communities because people fear that they still carry Ebola.

To address these complex and multifaceted issues, USAID’s Advancing Partners & Communities project introduced community healing dialogues. These meetings, which are conducted by trained facilitators, give community members space to talk through and resolve their concerns. These sessions are having positive effects on psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone for both survivors and their communities. Some survivors have been able to rejoin their communities free of stigma. In addition, the sessions serve as a forum for the community-based resolution of economic problems. For example, the forum led to a micro-enterprise group helping pay for a young woman’s school fee.

Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak was devastating on medical, economic and psychosocial levels. Support from governmental and non-governmental organizations have helped the country face these issues. Community healing dialogues have been extremely beneficial in aiding psychosocial recovery from Ebola in Sierra Leone.

– Isabelle Breier
Photo: USAID

Poverty in Sierra Leone
Since establishing independence in 1961, Sierra Leone, a country located in West Africa, has suffered from various conflicts and injustices including a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. As a result, Sierra Leone lacks significant development as a country, ranking 181 out of 189 on the 2019 Human Development Index. The nation remains impoverished. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Programme, approximately 60% of people live in poverty in Sierra Leone.

Factors Contributing to Poverty

Experts believe that four primary factors contribute to Sierra Leone’s overwhelming levels of poverty: government corruption, a lack of an established education system, absence of civil rights and poor infrastructure. These factors make poverty difficult to beat. With the unestablished infrastructure for roads and electricity, high transportation costs pose barriers to trade and limit economic growth.

Additionally, an absence of funding for educational programs leaves Sierra Leone behind in terms of gaining knowledge about civil rights or responsibilities. This contributes to gender inequality and the marginalization of women. The effects of gender inequality include women’s inability to join the workforce and a cultural view of women as servants for men. These ideas inhibit Sierra Leone’s development in a world that values education and women’s rights.

Reducing Poverty in Sierra Leone

Despite these ongoing issues, there have been various efforts to reduce poverty in Sierra Leone. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHCI) launched in 2010 in Sierra Leone. This initiative provides pregnant women, new mothers and young children with access to basic healthcare in order to reduce infant mortality rates. Although the FHCI is not a solution to poverty in Sierra Leone, it led to several healthcare reforms, including adequate pay for healthcare workers. Robert B. Zoellick, former president of The World Bank Group, expressed his support for such efforts in a press release in 2010, explaining that addressing poverty in Sierra Leone would help lead to peace.

The Work of Oxfam

Various organizations from the United States have also made efforts to reduce poverty in Sierra Leone. One such organization is Oxfam, which has headquarters in Boston. This global organization aims to provide assistance to people experiencing injustices related to poverty. In Sierra Leone, Oxfam focuses on solving infrastructure-related problems, such as access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, the organization holds the government and other powerful beings in the country accountable by advocating for gender equality and food security. Oxfam also provides assistance in times of emergency, including during past outbreaks of cholera and Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The Tiger Worms Toilet Project is one of Oxfam’s notable successes in Sierra Leone. This project helped prevent communicable diseases by addressing sewage concerns through enhanced sanitation practices. It also helped prevent diseases by educating those in Sierra Leone about their spread. These actions enable Oxfam to make strides toward accomplishing its vision for Sierra Leone: “A just, inclusive and resilient Sierra Leone without poverty, in which citizens, particularly women and youth demand and acquire access to their rights and live a life of dignity.”

Although poverty remains a persistent problem in this West African country, aid from U.S.-based organizations like Oxfam is a small step toward eliminating poverty in Sierra Leone.

Hannah Carroll
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Sierra LeoneOf Sierra Leone’s population of 7 million people, more than half are living below the poverty line. In 2019, the U.N. Development Programme Index ranked this West African country 181st out of 185 countries based on “average achievement in three dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.” Such a ranking is significantly influenced by the fact that millions of Sierra Leoneans are affected by food insecurity and many children are malnourished. Here are five facts about hunger in Sierra Leone. 

5 Facts About Hunger in Sierra Leone

  1. More than 3 million Sierra Leoneans lack reliable access to adequate food. In total, over 40% of Sierra Leone’s population is food insecure. Over 50% of Sierra Leone’s population lives on less than $1.25 per day, so many people struggle to buy sufficient and nutritious food. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index, about one out of every four people in the country are undernourished.
  2. Nearly 40% of children suffer from stunted or impaired growth as a result of chronic malnutrition. This can permanently impact health and cognitive development. Families living in poverty are less capable of providing their children with an adequate variety of nutrients in their diets. In 2018, the rate of mortality for children under 5 years old was 10.5%; about half of these deaths are attributable to malnutrition.
  3. Sierra Leone ended an eleven-year war in 2002, and was hit by the 2014 Ebola pandemic; these have greatly exacerbated rates of poverty and hunger in Sierra Leone. The long-term conflict dismantled national infrastructure in both rural and urban areas, resulting in a lack of effective basic social services  Beginning in May 2014, the Ebola crisis resulted in almost 4,000 deaths and a serious economic downturn in Sierra Leone. The country is still dealing with the aftermath of these events.
  4. Irregular rainfall has significantly reduced rice production in recent years. Rice is a staple food in Sierra Leone, but local agricultural production is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the population. In 2018, the majority of rice-growing households produced only half as much rice as they expected. Therefore, instead of exporting rice, which would improve economic growth, the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars importing the staple.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting more people at risk of acute hunger and starvation. According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), without sufficient aid, countries with high levels of food insecurity may face “mega-famines.” The WFP has also reported that food insecurity could double worldwide in 2020, affecting 130 million more people.

Solutions

Many organizations have taken action to address food insecurity and malnutrition in Sierra Leone. In 2018, Action Against Hunger aided 8,000 people with food security programs that reduced malnutrition among children and increased dietary diversity. The WFP, UNICEF and Sierra Leone’s government are distributing nutrient-dense food to young children and mothers to reduce child malnutrition.

The WFP also provides food to children in schools and supports smallholder farmers. In May 2020, the WFP assisted more than 17,000 people by distributing over 47 metric tons of food assistance, transporting 900 metric tons of improved seed rice to smallholder farms, and providing cash payments to more than 1,000 farming households

The World Bank has provided Sierra Leone’s government with $100 million to deal with economic challenges during the pandemic and reduce poverty. The U.N. is attempting to coordinate a global response to the pandemic that would require $4.7 billion to “protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries,” including Sierra Leone. 

Conclusion

These facts about hunger in Sierra Leone show that this issue is widespread and likely worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with multiple NGOs and members of the international community working to address this problem with food assistance and aid for farmers, there is hope for improvement; Sierra Leoneans may experience lower rates of hunger and malnutrition in the near future. 

Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small nation located on the coast of West Africa. While the country boasts an abundance of natural resources, it is also a poor nation, with a healthcare system in dire need of improvement. Here are 9 facts about healthcare in Sierra Leone.

9 Facts About Healthcare in Sierra Leone

  1. Sierra Leone has one of the lowest life expectancies on the globe. In 2018, the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone was 54.3 years. This places the nation among the bottom five in the entire world. In comparison, the average global life expectancy is 72.6 years.

  2. Sierra Leone faces high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Similar to life expectancy, infant and maternal fatality rates help gauge the quality of a nation’s health care system. In 2015, 87.1 infants died per 1,000 births in Sierra Leone, while 1,360 mothers died per 100,000 births. In the U.S., just 5.4 infants died per 1,000 births, and only 14 mothers died for every 100,000 births. Birth-related deaths generally occur when there are delays in women seeking, reaching and receiving care.

  3. All people living in Sierra Leone are at risk of malaria. Malaria is endemic to the nation, and poses a great health risk. In fact, four out of every ten hospital visits in Sierra Leone are due to malaria. Children are at particular risk, and the disease contributes to the nation’s high number of child fatalities. However, rates of the illness are falling across the country due to preventative practices such as sleeping under insecticide treated nets. Earlier diagnoses and treatments also contribute to the lowered rates of illness. By the end of 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone hopes to have decreased cases by 40 percent.

  4. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 hit Sierra Leone particularly hard. Despite its relatively small population, there were more cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone than any other country. To be exact, there were a total of 14,124 cases in the country, including nearly 4,000 deaths. The first case was reported in May 2014, and Sierra Leone was not declared Ebola-free until February 2016. According to the World Health Organization, the virus was able to spread so widely due to the weaknesses of the healthcare in Sierra Leone. These weaknesses included too few healthcare workers, not enough oversight and a lack of resources.

  5. Disabled residents face tough conditions. Approximately 450,000 disabled people live in Sierra Leone, including those who were maimed in the decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. The government does not currently provide any assistance to the disabled. Those with disabilities resort to begging on the streets of Freetown, the nation’s capital. Disabled youth turned away from their families (due to the family’s inability to support the youth) often form their own communities on the streets. Employment can also be hard to achieve due to discrimination. Julius Cuffie, a member of Parliament who suffers from polio, brings awareness to the disabled’s struggles. Hoping to bring the disabled’s issues to the forefront, Cuffie pushes for the Persons with Disabilities Act.

  6. Corruption exists in Sierra Leone’s healthcare system. According to a 2015 survey, 84 percent of Sierra Leoneans have paid a bribe just to use government services. Additionally, about a third of the funds given to fight the Ebola crisis are not accounted for. This translates to roughly 11 million pounds, or almost 14 million dollars. Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of about 40 percent. As a result, many health care services overcharge unknowing residents for basic services. A new initiative, put together by the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission, advises residents to report cases of bribery.

  7. In 2010, Sierra Leone began offering free health care. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHCI) aims to decrease the nation’s high maternal, infant and child mortality rate. The government also hopes the initiative improves general health across the country. The ordinance provides a package of free services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five. The program has not been without its challenges, however, due to the aforementioned weaknesses of previous systems of health care in Sierra Leone. That said, the initiative has resulted in a number of positive changes. For example, there has been an increase in the number of healthcare staff, a larger willingness for parents to seek care for their children and a reduction in mortality for those under five.

  8. There has been an increase in efforts to strengthen emergency medical response in Sierra Leone. Road accidents kill thousands each year in the country. In response to this, the First Responder Coalition of Sierra Leone (FRCSL) was created in 2019 to improve the state of urgent medical care. Five national and international groups in Makeni, a city in northern Sierra Leone, founded the coalition. The group aims to provide emergency care, treat the high numbers of injuries and resolve the low amount of pre-hospital treatment in Sierra Leone. In its first two months, the FRSCL trained 1,000 Makeni residents, equipping each one with a first aid kit. The coalition hopes to train 3,500 more in the next six months. It also plans on expanding out of the northern province in the next five years. Hopefully, the FRCSL’s efforts will save thousands of lives from vehicle accidents in the coming years.

  9. CARE is working to improve sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in Sierra Leone. The humanitarian agency began working in the country in 1961. Goals of the organization include providing medical supplies and contraceptives, giving training to healthcare workers and working with the community to eliminate attitudes that prevent women from discovering their rights to sexual and reproductive health. CARE is currently present in approximately 30 percent of the country’s communities, particularly in areas that have high rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. One Sierra Leonean mother, named Fanta, credits CARE with educating her about proper breastfeeding and health practices, leading to the survival and continued health of her daughter.

Healthcare in Sierra Leone is an issue that is complicated by the nation’s high rates of poverty, many endemic diseases and tumultuous political history. While shocking statistics, such as the country’s low life expectancy and high maternal and infant mortality rates paint a grim picture, there are signs of progress being made, and there is potential for much more change on the horizon.

– Joshua Roberts

Photo: Flickr

English in Developing Nations
When discussing the development of some of the lower-income nations of the world, the English language has a tricky history. Some countries label English as their national language when a majority of their populations speak something else. There are also organizations, such as the Peace Corps, that teach English in developing nations with the intention of providing the students with more opportunities. However, some have widely debated the effectiveness of teaching English in other nations and its relation to development. This begs the questions: How might English improve a developing nation and what are some past results?

Expectations

The intentions behind teaching English in lower-income areas are usually positive. In 2011, the British Council identified four benefits of the English language including that it improves employability, provides international mobility, is a key for unlocking development opportunities and is a neutral language. Here is a breakdown of each of these points.

  1. Employability: English for the purpose of employability assumes that someone with English skills will be more competitive for a job.
  2. International Mobility: English for the purpose of increasing international mobility assumes that people with English skills are able to travel to other countries more easily, through methods such as studying in international schools or working in other countries.
  3. Development Opportunities: English as a key for unlocking development opportunities assumes that a lot of published information and research is in English and that acquiring English skills can grant access to a lot of that information.
  4. Neutrality: English as a neutral language occurs when an institution or country has several dialects, possibly with complex social connotations attached to them, that hinder easy communication. People can use English as a linking language to unify groups.

These four roles outline how people could ideally use English to help developing nations, but history has proven that it is rarely that simple or effective.

Reality

Now, with the establishment of the theoretical ways that English can help people, here is some evidence to show if reality meets the expectations.

In regards to English’s ability to help employment opportunities, a Sierra Leonean wrote a piece in 2020 in which she discussed this very problem. Sierra Leone’s schools teach English and most government positions speak it, but a majority of the population speaks Krio, a dialect similar to English.

This writer labeled English as a “burden on a majority of citizens aged 18-40.” She stated that children struggle to learn due to its usage in classrooms and that jobs often go to unqualified people because they can speak English. Essentially, they feel that it is unfair that people have labeled English as such an important skill while teachers ineffectively teach it to students. She acknowledged that English can be an opportunity to make citizens more globally competitive, but that there seems to be a disconnect between the education system and the people. In this instance, the mishandling of the execution of teaching English did not measure up to the expectations.

Despite the structural shortcomings, there are some observed benefits for English in developing nations. A 2011 study that the British Council commissioned concluded that learning English in a developing country can increase an individual’s earning power by around 25 percent. The study gathered the data from five countries: Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cameroon and Rwanda. The data revealed that the English speaking countries (Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan) received more investment from other English speaking countries such as the U.S. and U.K. However, the report also shows that urban elites reap most of the benefits of speaking English, as they tend to have access to better schooling and higher-paying jobs.

Another benefit of speaking English is that some countries that outsiders previously did not visit, such as Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Ethiopia, are now growing tourist destinations. Many think that locals’ abilities to communicate with said tourists can increase interaction and commerce. In 2018, Africa accounted for only 1 percent of tourism earnings worldwide. Because of this largely untapped market, a lot of policymakers and business owners are hoping to find ways to appeal to more travelers.

African migrants often move to places such as the U.S. or the U.K. to flee economic hardships and human rights abuses. According to the 2019 census, African languages are the fastest growing in the United States.

However, English skills can greatly affect the success of African migrants entering English speaking countries. The BBC published a story in 2005 on Africans’ success in the U.K. It stated that “African-born immigrants are doing better than many other migrants.” It found that 81 percent of South Africans, 73 percent of Zimbabweans, 61 percent of Nigerians and 12 percent of Simoleans had employment. These figures deduced that English competency plays an important role in an African migrant’s ability to find employment in the U.K. and most likely other English speaking nations.

The Need for Balance

Essentially, what the evidence suggests is that teaching English as a tool for development could be beneficial, but currently there are a lot of obstacles surrounding the actual implementation process. English carries the stigma of colonization in several countries, so people often meet it with resistance. Conversely, in places such as Pakistan, people treat English as superior to native languages, which causes rifts between populations rather than unifying them.

Clearly a balance is necessary and there are specialists and organizations attempting that now. One method that seeks to maintain the integrity of native language while also presenting the opportunity to learn English is “Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education.”

A paper that Tove Skutnabb-Kangas wrote in 2013 cited examples of MLE in practice in Nepal, Sápmi and Ethiopia, and highlighted the positive effects the program had on students.

There are organizations, such as the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group, that are currently attempting to utilize this method in places such as Thailand and Cambodia to strike a balance when integrating English in developing nations around the world.

English does seem to be a viable option for development in some instances, but in others, it can lead to added societal tension and obstacles for students. As implementation and teaching programs progress, hopefully, they will work out the negatives so citizens of low-income nations can just focus on creating more opportunities for themselves.

Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a country on the west coast of Africa with a population of more than 7.5 million people and is perhaps most widely known for its turbulent diamond trade. The country’s heart resides in its lively capital, Freetown and it attracts many visitors with its beautiful beaches and vibrant rainforests. Despite its rich natural resources, the country struggles when it comes to providing adequate sanitation services for its citizens. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Sierra Leone

  1. A decade-long civil war severely impacted the country’s infrastructure. Ensuring access to safe water and sanitation services has been a top priority during Sierra Leone’s post-conflict governance reform. However, there is still much work to be done to restore services that halted during the war in the 1990s.
  2. Waste management is a major challenge. The Minister of the State, Office of the Vice President, Mohamed Alie Bah said in 2017 that the increasing amounts of solid waste need to be addressed, as the problem will only worsen with expected population growth. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone is troubleshooting the most effective and sustainable ways to address the problem with the hopes of improving overall health and wellness in their communities.
  3. Nearly 3 million people lack access to clean water. As a result, millions drink from freestanding water such as ponds and unprotected wells, which increases the likeliness of exposure to infections and parasites. According to a 2017 report, risks associated with poor water, sanitation and health facilities are the second largest cause of death and disability. The Water Project is an example of one nonprofit working to improve clean water access in Sierra Leone. To date, the group has built wells that have benefited 7,000 Sierra Leoneans to date.
  4. Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of child death. Drinking unclean water that contains bacteria or parasites can lead to an infection in the intestinal tract. Diarrheal disease usually results in malnutrition and dehydration, which can become fatal. In Sierra Leone, more than 1,400 children die from diarrheal diseases each year.
  5. Sierra Leone is trying to improve water quality and availability. Officials in Sierra Leone are aware of the importance of providing adequate drinking water and are currently taking steps to conceptualize, budget and fundraise for systems that would hopefully improve the country’s water supply. Due to a lack of funding, it appears that the project will be a collaborative effort between several sectors and organizations. An anticipated $164 million annual investment is needed to create and maintain rural and urban water supply facilities. Even with donations from organizations such as the World Bank and UNICEF, the monetary goal is expected to be missed by a large margin, around $130 million.
  6. Sierra Leone has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. While a majority of maternal deaths are caused by severe bleeding, 11 percent of the deaths are caused by sepsis. Most maternal deaths are treatable and preventable, and this statistic is another indicator of the changes that still need to be made. Over recent years, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone has partnered with the World Health Organization to implement several health initiatives, including the Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care training program, which aims to ensure health care professionals have the knowledge needed to manage child-birth related complications.
  7. Hand-washing facilities are often lacking. According to a report published by the Government of Sierra Leone in 2017, 27 percent of people in urban areas have access to hand-washing facilities with soap and water, and only 15 percent of people in rural communities have the same access.
  8. Household toilet facilities are often inadequate. Nationally, only 16 percent of households have an improved toilet facility, which is defined as “a non-shared facility constructed to prevent contact with human waste.” These facilities reduce the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Conversely, 18 percent of households nationwide do not have access to any toilet facilities, and instead, must defecate outdoors.
  9. Poor menstruation hygiene management affects girls’ education in Sierra Leone. Girls in Sierra Leone can face several challenges while menstruating, especially while attending school. The quality of restroom facilities can vary at schools, but oftentimes there are not bathrooms with running water or separate facilities for girls. This leads to girls having difficulty disposing of pads and managing their periods, which can leave them feeling embarrassed or distracted during classes. Others miss school altogether during their periods.
  10. Training is being offered to prepare Sierra Leone for future disasters or outbreaks. The CDC offers water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training to help at-risk countries strengthen their infrastructure and workforce to ensure they are prepared to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats. There are several facets to the training, such as Outbreak Investigation Training, which trains public health staff to detect and respond to waterborne diseases, and training to teach students how to test water samples for contamination.

Improving sanitation in Sierra Leone has been a priority for the nations’ leaders for decades. While finances continue to be a challenge, improvements have been made thanks to the efforts of organizations within the country, such as the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, as well as organizations outside of the country, such as the World Health Organization.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Technological Innovation in Sierra Leone
After a civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s and an Ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone is slowly recovering by investing in its future through technological innovation. The President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, stated that “Science and technology is the bedrock for the development of any modern economy.” With its labor force consisting of more than 60 percent of subsistence farming and its GDP being agriculture-based, the West African country has its sights on technology to help diversify its economy. UNICEF, Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) and businesses are working together to improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

UNICEF and DSTI

President Bio created the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in 2018 to further his vision of developing a technology sector in the country. Dr. David Sengeh is the first Chief Innovation Officer of DSTI. UNICEF and DSTI have partnered to support the use of digital data. One result of the partnership is the Free Quality School Education Initiative. The initiative uses data science to help grant free education to every child and give fast feedback on test scores and the quality of education. MagicBox is an open-source data-sharing platform that UNICEF is investing in which includes partners such as Google and IBM. People can use MagicBox to map epidemics in order to reduce the spread of disease and it has helped Sierra Leone since 2014. Its first use was during the 2014 Ebola Crisis in West Africa. It can also collect private and public data on education and poverty.

Drone Medicine Transportation

UNICEF and the DSTI are also testing drones that could deliver medicine and vaccines. Drones could also send pictures and digital data of natural disasters to mitigate hazards to the public. Sierra Leone is the fourth country that UNICEF drone-tested. Aerial imaging, used for mapping infrastructure, transportation and agriculture, helps elevate the country’s development. Since it is one of the least developed countries in the world, drone data pertaining to infrastructure is a good first step in development. For example, only 10 percent of the roads are paved, making transportation slow and difficult. During the rainy seasons, rural floods cut off communities for up to six months. Drones could reach the communities, especially those with HIV and AIDS.

GEN-350

The GEN-350 is a new technological innovation in Sierra Leone that produces drinking water out of the air. Watergen created the generator called GEN-350 in its mission to provide affordable water to countries that lack clean drinking water. The generator simply needs electricity to operate. The GEN-350 can produce up to 900 liters of water a day. About 50 percent of the population lacks clean drinking water, so the generator reduces the possibility of waterborne disease. Waterborne diseases are one of the main causes of death in the country. Water sources for Sierra Leoneans include ponds, puddles and wells that chemicals from mining and agriculture have contaminated. Watergen’s GEN-350 is a long-term solution to clean and affordable water for those in poverty in Sierra Leone and the world.

Technological Innovation Ongoing

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $773,000 grant to DSTI’s GIS Portal in 2019 expresses increased interest in Dr. Sengeh’s goal to provide “real-time information for timely access and receipt of services, and optimize service delivery specifically in the provision of maternal healthcare services.” Although technological innovation in Sierra Leone is in its infancy, the government shows initiative with the creation of the DSTI.

A civil war between 1991 and 2002 tarnished its economy, but the country is seeing development as companies such as Watergen and organizations such as UNICEF provide solutions to alleviating the effects of poverty, such as poor education and polluted water.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

All As One is Fighting Child Poverty
All As One is an orphanage fighting child poverty in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world – 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The 340,000 orphaned children feel the disparities of this country in particular. They have a one in five chance of dying before they reach the age of 5 and a 57 percent chance of never learning to read.

Recently, The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak to the Executive Director of All As One, Deanna Wallace. During the interview, Wallace noted that All As One has been working in Sierra Leone over the past 20 years and that the orphanage has impacted “the lives of over 35,000 children and young adults, helping to bring change to a generation of children.”

How All As One Fights Child Poverty

Four main factors cause poverty in Sierra Leone including corruption within the government, insufficient infrastructure, lack of education and inadequate civil rights. Children often die at birth due to low-quality health care or starvation. The problem of child poverty worsened after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which left thousands more children orphaned and impoverished.

All As One is fighting child poverty in Sierra Leone by taking care of its most vulnerable children and young adults. The orphanage provides them with a home, education, medical care and other amenities as needed. While All As One does not offer adoption services, the amenities it does provide help these children establish a healthier lifestyle.

Wallace stated that, “All As One helps fight poverty on the ground level, mainly through education, so that their children can find jobs and support themselves as adults.” The organization also gives micro-loans to entrepreneurial young women with dreams of starting a business. In addition, All As One provides nourishing meals to 100 children every day, with hopes that these children escape the grips of poverty.

The organization currently has about 45 children in care and about 55 daily patrons from the surrounding community, who visit for schooling and food.

Life At the Center

Life for a child at All As One involves going to school, doing homework, completing small chores, having playtime in the afternoons, attending church on Sundays and occasionally going on outings. Reflecting upon these offerings, Wallace said that “the children we care for have it better than so many [children in Sierra Leone] like those who are forced into the workforce as a child.” A staggering 51.3 percent of children in Sierra Leone are subject to child labor.

Recent Strides in Fighting Global Poverty

Recently, five All As One students received the opportunity to take a university entrance exam. Although the test typically has a 95 percent failure rate, all five AAO students passed the exam and were able to continue on to attend university. Victories such as this encourage All As One to continue its fight against poverty in Sierra Leone.

– Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr