General information on Senegal

During the country's 10-year civil war, thousands of children were used and abused as combatants. In 2014, the Ebola epidemic brought even more hardships to one of Africa’s poorest countries. Against this background, SOS Children's Villages played a vital role in helping the country's most vulnerable segments of population: children and young adults.

Young girls with SOS mother - photo: R. Fleischanderl
SOS Kindergarten in Freetown (photo: C. Lesske) (photo: C. Ladavicius)
The Republic of Sierra Leone is a country located in Western Africa. Since gaining independence from former colonial power Great Britain in 1961, the country's history has been rather turbulent.

A cruel civil war that lasted from 1991 until early 2002 cost thousands of lives and resulted in the displacement of more than two million people - about one third of the country's population.

Although Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in Africa, its soil is home to ample resources. The country is extremely rich in diamonds, gold, cocoa, coffee and bauxite.

One of the richest countries in Africa remains one of the poorest

Children are in need of protection

During the Ebola epidemic, SOS Children’s Villages gave local families food and basic medical supplies (photo: SOS archives).

The psychological effects on children that were exposed to the atrocities that occurred during the country's civil war go deep. According to estimates, 310,000 children in Sierra Leone grow up without their parents, many of them as a result of the war. 18,000 of them have been orphaned due to AIDS. The Ebola epidemic, which started in 2014, left many more children without parental care.

Children who have lost parental care often face the challenge of being the breadwinner for an entire family at a very early age. Thousands of Sierra Leonean children work in the country's mines in order to make a living. They have to carry out physically challenging tasks like digging in soil and gravel or shifting heavy masses of mud.
At 119 per 1,000 live births, Sierra Leone also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Access to food remains a challenge for the majority of Sierra Leonean families. One in four children is either moderately or severely underweight.

A shortage of schools and teachers heavily affects the education of Sierra Leonean children. During the war, thousands of schools were partially or completely destroyed. In spite of recent efforts to make education more accessible, more than half of the school-aged population don’t go to school. The country continues to have one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world: only 42 per cent of Sierra Leoneans aged 15 and over know how to read and write. In mid- 2014 the situation worsened, as schools were shut in order to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
Child-trafficking has become just another growing problem in Sierra Leone. Poor families, predominantly coming from rural areas, are often lured to give away their children under promises that later turn out to be false. In some cases, these children end up as domestic slaves or they are forced into prostitution by their "benefactors".