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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Summary

Known for beautiful tropical beaches juxtaposed with excruciating poverty, Sierra Leone was used as the British hub for the slave trade for centuries. The capital, Freetown, was created as a city for repatriated slaves in the 18th century, and it gained independence from colonial Britain in 1961.1 The brutal civil war from 1991-2002 and severe outbreak of Ebola in 2015 have made it challenging for the country to continue to develop its economy and lift people out of poverty.1 Because of the government inefficiency and lack of infrastructure, Sierra Leone continues to struggle to educate children, protect the environment, and provide jobs.2 1 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/sl.html
2 https://www.britannica.com/place/Sierra-Leone/Government-and-society#toc55340

Demographics

Nationality
Sierra Leonean
Population
5,612,685 (July 2013 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Languages
Religions

Explore Sierra Leone Subcases

Click and view Sierra Leone subcases and learn more about our Sierra Leone

Environment
Family
Human Rights
Education
Poverty
Religion
Clean Water
Economy
Government
Health
Children
Animals

Environment

Environmental policies and protection are not at the forefront of people’s minds, which is shown in the destruction of the country’s environment.1 70% of the land was covered with forests only a century ago, but now because of commercial logging and subsistence farming, only 5% remains.1

Family

There is a high fertility rate of nearly five children per woman, and this high rate is mostly because of the low contraceptive rate and early childbearing age.1 Over 60% of the population is under the age of 25.1

Human Rights

There are restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, and there are accusations of police brutality and unlawful arrests in instances of public protest, especially against the government.1 Freedom of the press is limited, with journalists routinely arrested for criticizing the government. 60% of the population believes the police force is the most corrupt institution in the country, and bribes are commonplace.2 Female genital mutilation is commonplace, with some studies estimating 90% of women in Sierra Leone have undergone these excruciating violations even with laws in place banning it.3

Education

48% of the population is literate, and education is not required after primary school.1 Pregnant girls are banned from attending schools and taking exams, which has caused over 10,000 girls to be expelled from their schools.2 The gender gap in education is even more significant when looking at secondary education enrollment, with only 10% of women enrolling as opposed to 22% of men.3 In addition, there is a lack funding for education and many schools remain destroyed from the years of civil war. 40% of teachers are untrained, and there are only enough textbooks for 20% of children to have their own book.4 From 2014-2015, all schools shut down to help stop the spread of Ebola, but this closure is expected to have unfortunate long-term Read More consequences on literacy rates and school attendance.5 Show Less

Poverty

Almost 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.1 Most of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, and the majority of them live in the Northern and Southern rural areas.2 It is even more common for women to live in poverty than men.2

Religion

About two-thirds of the population are Muslims and one-quarter are Christians, and many people practice these religions in tandem with indigenous religious practices.1 Freedom of religion is constitutionally protected, and Sierra Leone is praised for its religious tolerance. Many people practice multiple religions simultaneously, inter-faith marriages are common, and religion does not heavily influence political alliances.2

Clean Water

There is a lack of potable water and sanitation services in Sierra Leone, with 13% of the population having sanitation facilities and 60% having access to clean water.1 Because of rapid urbanization, there is not adequate water infrastructure and services to provide sanitation services to most of the population in cities.2

Economy

Sierra Leone is extremely poor, and over half of the working age population engages in subsistence farming for work.1 Approximately 70% of youth are unemployed or underemployed.1 The major exports are iron ore and diamonds, but these are also sold in illegal markets.1 50% of their public investment programs rely on assistance from international donors which is limiting the ways their economy can become independent and grow.2 Businesses are unable to grow because of government corruption, inequalities amongst people groups, and poorly maintained infrastructure.2

Government

The two dominant political parties, the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), are mostly ethno-regional groups as opposed to defined institutions with set political goals.1 In recent years, however, there has been no recorded politically driven violence, and the elections are considered free and fair.

Health

The life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world at 58, and there are high maternal and child mortality rates.1 Malaria and yellow fever are common health threats, and in 2014 and 2015, an Ebola outbreak killed over 4,000 people and infected another 11,000.2 There is a shortage of trained medical professionals as many have left the country for better pay, leaving only one doctor for every 50,000 people.1 With limited access to clean water, many water borne diseases like diarrhea, cholera and typhoid present long term challenges to health in Sierra Leone.3

Children

Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Youth Affairs oversees all youth programs sponsored by the government and international actors to ensure children have sufficient access to clubs and enrichment programs.1 Children, often expected to take care of their families from a young age, are subject to child marriages and labor.2 50% of children work, often in poor conditions, and 39% of girls get married before the legal age of 18.3

Animals

Many animal populations were nearly destroyed during the civil war, and it is rare to find animals like elephants, lions, and hyenas anywhere but nature preserves.1 There are 146 species threatened with extinction in Sierra Leone, mostly because of loss of habitat.2 Mining has also contaminated fresh water sources with siltation, and because of this, freshwater fish populations are dwindling.3

Sierra Leone

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