Why we work in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone saw one-third of its population displaced and tens of thousands killed during the civil war of the 1990s.
The conflict ended in 2002, bringing with it a more stable economy. But the destruction of many schools, hospitals and roads during combat has proved a challenge to recovery, and the country remains one of the poorest in the world.
Youth unemployment was a root cause of the civil conflict and is still a problem.
Lack of education
Illiteracy rates are amongst the highest in the world and less than half of all school-aged children are in education.
The deadly Ebola outbreak of 2014 took a massive toll on the country’s economic and social recovery. Although Sierra Leone is now Ebola-free, more than 3,500 people died and many more lost their families and livelihoods.
Women are among the most marginalised members of society in Sierra Leone. Here, a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy-related causes is amongst the highest in the world, with one in every 21 women at risk. This is partly due to high teenage pregnancy rates, with 38% of girls giving birth and 44% being married before they are 18.
6060% of the population live below the poverty line.
9.5Only 9.5% of women have reached secondary or higher education.
4444% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.
What we do in Sierra Leone
ActionAid works to provide healthcare, safe childbirth practices and clean water and lobbies governments to change the policies and practices that affect the lives of Sierra Leone’s women and girls. We also work with communities to create opportunities for young people to get an education and develop business skills for the future.
Getting girls into school
ActionAid sees education as a lasting solution to poverty in Sierra Leone. Although school attendance rates are improving, the drop-out rate among girls remains high, with only 33% of girls attending secondary school.
When parents struggle to meet the costs of education, such as books and uniforms, it is girls who miss out the most. Many girls are expected to support their families and marry at a young age. They are also at risk from sexual violence on their way to school.
ActionAid works with girls to identify the changes they want to see and to empower them to go to school. We organise training for women, men, boys and girls on the importance of educating girls. We also support communities to improve existing schools and build new ones.
Tackling violence against women and girls
ActionAid puts women and girls at the forefront of our work in Sierra Leone. We work in communities where violence against women is a persistent problem and seek to change attitudes from within.
We run workshops and awareness-raising programmes to ensure that men know it is illegal to incite violence upon women. This is combined with projects that inform women of their rights and how to get legal support if they have been abused.
Promoting women’s leadership means that women can speak out about the issues that affect them and help improve their communities.
A devastating outbreak of Ebola struck Sierra Leone in May 2014. The virus spread rapidly, killing over 3,500 people and affecting over 8,000.
Community engagement was key to ActionAid’s Ebola programme in Sierra Leone. We worked directly through networks such as local mothers groups who were able to gain the trust of local people and educate them in how to stop the virus spreading.
During the height of the outbreak our community volunteers went door-to-door, spreading awareness of the importance of simple hygiene measures such as handwashing, and reaching over 100,000 people. We also trained neighbourhood watch teams to spot signs of illness in the community and to safely deliver medicine to people quarantined in their homes.
During the emergency phase of the outbreak we provided food and hygiene kits to vulnerable people including quarantined families, education materials for children when their schools were closed and psychosocial support to survivors. During 2014 and 2015 our Ebola response reached over 350,000 people across seven districts.
How we change lives for good in Sierra Leone
- 1,240 children are being sponsored in Bo district.
- We supported 350,000 people through our Ebola response.
- 1,200 volunteers were trained to stop the spread of Ebola.
Bandor lost her grandmother to Ebola
In December 2014, after her grandmother and sole carer died from Ebola, 13-year-old Bandor’s house was burnt to stop the disease spreading.
"I lost everything," says Bandor. "Even the photographs of my grandmother."
Bandor’s relative, Mama Alice, has since given her a new home. ActionAid provided Mama Alice with essential supplies like rice, oil and a mattress for Bandor to sleep on.
"I did not hesitate to take her," says Mama Alice. "It could so easily have been me."
Mama Alice, a nurse and mother of six, is one of ActionAid’s 1,200-strong team of volunteers who were instrumental in combatting Ebola in Sierra Leone. Trained as a 'neighbourhood watch volunteer, Mama Alice was able to spot signs of Ebola in her community, get help for victims and prevent the disease spreading.
She says people now wash their hands frequently and have adapted their burial practices to prevent the spread of Ebola.
Child sponsorship and education
Child sponsorship is a way of getting children, especially girls, into school. A vital element of our work is boosting education levels after damage to many schools during the civil war.
We work with rural communities to provide accommodation for teachers and promote the importance of education for girls as well as boys.
Nine-year-old Wuya is a sponsored child who lives in the Blamawo community in Bo District, Southern Province. She's one of the 1,240 children who are sponsored by ActionAid supporters in Sierra Leone.Sponsor a child like Wuya
Mary is reducing childbirth deaths
Iye Mammy, 25, with her newborn baby (centre) and nurse and trained midwife, Mary Angela (left), 51, who helped deliver Iye Mammy's baby in a small but functioning birth waiting home built with support from ActionAid.
Mary delivers a baby a day across 15 communities . She has one pair of forceps and sometimes delivers two babies at the same time.
Before ActionAid built the medical centre Mary works in, women often died during labour, as they had to make a five-mile journey on foot to the nearest hospital.Find out more about how we help women and girls