SIERRA LEONE - Facts & Figures


The Sierra Leone Civil War began in 1991 and the country suffered deep terror and unrelenting humanitarian crisis which left it devastated. The war curbed agricultural production drastically, cut government revenues from mining and seen the destruction of hundreds of schools, health clinics, and administrative facilities. Forced displacement has effected more than half the population, estimated at 4.5 million. Between 20,000 and 75,000 people have been killed and thousands mutilated. It was officially declared over on 18 January 2002.


2007 data produced by UNICEF indicated that less than half of Sierra Leoneans have access to safe water and less than one third have access to sanitation. Sierra Leone is seriously off-track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for water and sanitation.


The shortage of safe water here profoundly affects the life chances of children. In fact, Sierra Leone has the highest level of infant mortality in the world (283 out of every 1000 die under 5). Diarrhea disease, together with malaria and acute respiratory disease are the biggest killers in Sierra Leone. Access levels to safe water are lowest in remote rural areas; however the water supply to Freetown, which is served by the Guma Valley Water Company, is in an increasing vulnerable condition. While Guma Valley Water Company did a good job to maintain water supply to Freetown during the civil war, the network has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance and investment. Leakage rates are high and the system is struggling to cope with increased demand due to the massive influx of people from the countryside to Freetown during the conflict.


In June 2006, Freetown's water reservoir (Guma) was almost emptied which would have led to a complete failure of supply. Although the water level in the reservoir has now recovered, this event highlighted the fragility of the capital's water supply. Many people, particularly to the east side of Freetown, have to resort to unsafe alternative sources, such as polluted shallow wells, and a cholera threat in Freetown arises each rainy season.


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