Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. Between 1990 and 2001 military takeovers and civil war led to the displacement of over half the population and the deaths of tens of thousands of people, and many hospitals and health centres were looted. The civil war ended in 2001 and the first multi party elections were held in 2002.
- The average life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 55 years.
- Almost a quarter of all children in Sierra Leone are malnourished.
- The country has been known as one of the worst places in the world to give birth because of the extremely high number of women that die during or just after childbirth.
Progress is being made in Sierra Leone; in 2010 the government announced the Free Healthcare Initiative for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under five. The initiative abolished fees for medical attention and provided drugs and treatment free of charge in every public health facility in the country, and is already having a very positive impact.
As well as maternal health, violence against women is an issue which affects many women in Sierra Leone.
Health Poverty Action is working to strengthen women and communities in Sierra Leone in their struggle for health through improving maternal health and combating violence against women.
Poverty in Sierra Leone does not exist in a vacuum, it is partly caused by a global unequal distribution of power and wealth. For example, Sierra Leone has to pay a significant amount in debt repayments to external lenders every year, for debts that were created during the Civil War. This means the country has less finance to spend on health services.