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