Situated on the North Atlantic coast of West Africa, Sierra Leone is small but densely populated. Ranked 181 out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index, it has high poverty levels, with 53 percent of the population living below the poverty line (US$ 1.25 per day). Since the signing of the peace agreement in 2002, the country has been recovering from a 11-year war that destroyed its national infrastructure and basic social services.
An outbreak of Ebola in 2014 claimed the lives of 4,000 people and had a severe impact on the country’s economy. GDP growth, which peaked at almost 21 percent in 2013 thanks to strong mining exports, slowed down in 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak and a fall in global iron ore prices.
Around 3.2 million Sierra Leoneans are estimated to lack sufficient nutritious food to live a healthy life with 170,000 of them being severely food insecure according to the September 2018 Food Security Monitoring System report. Chronic malnutrition is widespread, with the prevalence of stunting at 31.3 percent, above the World Health Organisation ‘high’ threshold (>30 percent).
According to the 2015 climate change vulnerability index (CCVI), Sierra Leone is the second most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change, and is categorised as extremely vulnerable in terms of impact on food production, poverty, migration and social stability. Climate-related shocks have been common in recent years, including major flooding in 2015 and August 2019 and a devastating flooding and landslide in 2017.
Only about a fifth of an estimated 5.4 million hectares of arable land is used for agriculture. The sector is dominated by smallholder farmers practising subsistence farming with traditional methods and limited use of improved seeds and fertilizers.
Deforestation, land degradation and climate change have also affected food production. Production of the country’s staple food, rice, has declined to such an extent that only 4 percent of farmers produce enough to meet the needs of their family for one year.
The country ranks 150 out of 160 countries assessed on the Gender Inequality Index. Women’s literacy is 44 percent compared to men.
About half of the adult population is illiterate and half of those leaving primary school are unable to read or write.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been present in Sierra Leone since 1968, supporting the Government through a range of life-saving and resilience-building activities.WFP uses food, cash and nutrition assistance to empower women, build local capacities and enhance both local and national preparedness to climate-related shocks.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Sierra Leone
Maternal and child nutritionWFP is phasing out moderate acute malnutrition treatment for children under 5 and including pregnant and nursing mothers. This continues to be provided through supplementary feeding in Government health facilities in four districts with the highest rates of Global Acute Malnutrition. WFP complements the efforts of Government, UNICEF and other partners to address stunting focusing on the first 1,000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday by providing nutrient-dense complementary food, to children under 2 and mothers in two districts.
Food by prescription for people living with HIV and TBWith support from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, WFP provides food-by-prescription assistance to people living with HIV and Tuberculosis (TB). The programme provides HIV patients undergoing anti-retroviral treatment and TB patients enrolled in Directly Observed Treatment Short Course with nutritional support to promote adherence to therapy and treat moderate acute malnutrition. The activity is being phased out with the National Social Protection agency taking over support of eligible beneficiaries.
Smallholder and agriculture market supportThrough linking farmers to WFP local procurement opportunities and private-sector buyers, WFP and its partners support smallholder farmers to build linkages with markets to sell their surplus crops at competitive prices, thus bolstering their income, reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience. WFP also supports farmers to build capacities in post-harvest management and value addition, including milling, parboiling, packaging and appropriate storage to minimize post-harvest losses and achieve quality, high value outputs.
Resilience buildingThrough food assistance for asset creation (FFA), WFP strengthens the livelihoods of food insecure communities that are vulnerable to shocks, by implementing programmes that create productive assets, promote the production of nutritionally diverse foods, diversify livelihood strategies and rehabilitate degraded ecologies. WFP prioritizes the targeting of assets that are communally managed so as to ensure that food and nutritional benefits can be enjoyed by the community as a whole. WFP works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for the implementation of FFA activities.
Capacity strengtheningBuilding on the infrastructure and logistics capacity established during the Ebola outbreak, WFP continues to support government efforts in disaster management and food security monitoring by providing training and technical assistance to national institutions in the areas of disaster planning, supply chain systems, geo-spatial mapping, nutrition-sensitive programming and food security monitoring and analysis. WFP also maintains a logistics base to serve as a storage facility for essential humanitarian and preparedness assets and support WFP–led national disaster response training programmes. WFP’s government partners for institutional strengthening activities include the Office of National Security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
School feedingWFP is supporting the integrated school feeding programme, which provides fortified food to 40,000 school children in two of the most food insecure districts of the country – Pujehun and Kambia. In addition, the program aims to link with local farmers to provide them with a market opportunity to increase household income and support rural development.