These recent emergencies placed additional burdens on communities that were already vulnerable. With over half of its population living below the poverty line, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many families struggle to meet their children’s basic day-to-day needs.
UNICEF has now taken an active role in helping these affected communities forge a better future, working with partners to help children in Sierra Leone return to school and families to rebuild homes, and getting them back on the path toward security and prosperity.
When 12-year-old Sullay Koroma lost his father to Ebola, he thought his days in the classroom were finished and with the family’s breadwinner gone, Sullay dropped out of school after the third grade.
“I needed help to continue with school, and I was not sure where that would come from,” he says.
For many families, the Ebola outbreak reversed the economic gains achieved since the end of Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war in 2002.
Two years later, Sullay has been able to return to school with the help of some industrious mothers in his village of Magbogboko, in northern Sierra Leone. The women are members of the community-based Mothers’ Club, which uses profits from activities like gardening and arts and craft production to help vulnerable children like Sullay get an education.
Equipped with a new uniform, books and pencils from the Mothers’ Club, Sullay has joined his peers in fifth grade. He dreams of becoming an engineer so he can build enough schools to provide an education for every child.
UNICEF and partners like ActionAid International Sierra Leone, with support from the people of Sweden and other donors, provide each club with 2 million Leones (about US$260), which they then use for activities like farming, soap production and tie-dye. “The clubs decide what they want to do, with some guidance,” explained Robert Sam, Project Officer at ActionAid. “They sell what they produce and use profits to pay children’s school fees, buy uniforms, books, bags, etc.”
Nearly 2,000 Sierra Leonean families impacted by the disaster have been supported through this direct cash transfer scheme, a project led by the Sierra Leonean Government, with support from UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.