Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries; ranked 179 out of 188 countries in the UN’s 2015 Human Development Index. Life expectancy is just 51 years. The West Africa nation was ravaged by a civil war between 1991 and 2002, which left more than 50,000 people dead and two million displaced. The country's entire infrastructure was damaged, including its health system, with the 2014 Ebola outbreak causing further harm to people and systems. Since the conflict’s conclusion, progress is being made to improve health care. However, the country’s population still has to contend with: very high maternal and infant mortality; high rates of preventable disease, nutritional deficiencies, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases, anaemia, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; widespread poverty; poor infrastructure; 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 improving and the government is rebuilding infrastructure. Maternal mortality rates and under-5 mortality rates are improving, life expectancy is rising, expenditure in health is increasing, more children are being immunised, and more people have access to improved drinking water. Hope is at hand, but more help is desperately needed.
The common causes of deaths among children aged under 5 years are: respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhoea, prematurity, birth asphyxia, neo-natal sepsis, measles and injuries.
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.
Sierra Leone has the world’s lowest life expectancy for both sexes that is 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men (WHO 2015) - ranking it 189th out of 191 countries.
The UN HDI (Human Development Index - a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living) positions Sierra Leone at 177 out of 187 countries.
Communicable diseases along with maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions in Sierra Leone accounted for an estimated 77 per cent of all mortality.