HI works in Sierra Leone to improve the quality of life and mental health of people suffering from psychosocial distress or living with a mental health disorder.
A group of children, including Boie-Bah in a wheelchair, smile at school. | © F. Saracini / HI
In a country that was rocked by a terrible civil war, HI is working with communities and local partners to implement community-based response and prevention strategies in the fields of mental health and psychosocial support. The goal is to improve the quality of life and well-being of people suffering from psychosocial distress or living with mental health problems. To do so, the program organizes support and discussion groups, conducts awareness-raising sessions on mental health issues and carries out community visits to help identify people who need support. HI also works with Sierra Leonean associations to carry out advocacy and contribute to the development of new laws and practices in the field of mental health that better protect and support users. The program trains health professionals and works with the main psychiatric care facility in Freetown.
HI’s program in Sierra Leone also implements actions to prevent and respond to gender-based violence issues and empower women and girls, including those with disabilities. Teams carry out awareness-raising sessions, train community actors, create support groups, and alert civil society and political decision-makers through advocacy actions.
They also implement inclusive education projects to improve access to education for children with disabilities and run awareness-raising activities in the communities.
Sierra Leone was ravaged by a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. In the spring of 2014, it was severely affected by an Ebola epidemic. Today, a high percentage of its population is living in poverty.
Multi-dimensional poverty affects around two-thirds of the population, with rural areas worst hit. The recent COVID-19 crisis weakened the State by reducing economic activities and widening political divides. The country has high unemployment rates. Staple food prices are rising and food insecurity now threatens some 4.7 million people.
In addition, Sierra Leone is the third most vulnerable country to the consequences of climate change, due to its high dependence on agriculture and natural resources and environmental degradation. Extreme rainfall and rising sea levels increasingly threaten coastal areas with flooding and erosion.
In 2018, the adult literacy rate in Sierra Leone was 43.21%. Progress has been made with improved access to education over the past decade, but certain groups, including children with disabilities, remain mostly excluded. In Sierra Leone, people with disabilities face physical, social and economic barriers that make it difficult to access education, skills development and employment.
Number of HI staff: 24
Date the program launched: 1996