About Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries; ranked 177 out of 186 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index, it has a life expectancy of just 48 years. The West Africa nation was ravaged by a civil war between 1991 and 2002, which left 70,000 people dead. The country's entire infrastructure was damaged, including its health systems. Since the conflict’s conclusion, progress is being made to improve health care in rural communities. However, the country’s population still has to contend with a number of issues: high youth unemployment; high maternal and infant mortality; widespread rural poverty; poor infrastructure; disease and a high proportion of people who are unable to read or write. However, the community is rebuilding. There is a stable government that has held two successful presidential elections. The economy is one of the fastest growing in Africa and the government is making every effort to rebuild infrastructure.

Country Facts

  • Sierra Leoneans face a number of diseases stemming from health and sanitation issues. Malnutrition, anaemia, neonatal infection, diarrhoeal diseases, pneumonia and malaria are all common causes of infant deaths.
  • 1 in 6 women will die giving birth
  • Under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 182 (2012)
  • UN HDI 2011 ranking: 177 out of 186 countries
  • Malaria remains the most common cause of illness and death in the country, accounting for about 50% of outpatient visits and 38% of hospital admissions. Malaria accounts for about 41% of all hospital deaths among children aged under 5 years
  • Only 40 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water. Dirty water gives rise to waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, hepatitis A, cholera and typhoid fever.
  • Life expectancy: 45 years (2012)
  • Largest contribution to mortality: Communicable diseases, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions
  • The majority of causes of illness and death, especially of children, in Sierra Leone are preventable with most deaths being attributable to nutritional deficiencies, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases, anaemia, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

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