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The Impact of Civil War in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, children have more opportunities to attend school today.
In Sierra Leone, children have more opportunities to attend school today.

The civil war in Sierra Leone raged from 1991 to 2002. Although the conflict has been over for more than a decade, this western African country is still struggling to recover from the bloodshed and violence that left more than 50,000 people dead. ChildFund has been working to help Sierra Leone communities in need since 1985, but with 70 percent of the population living in poverty, we need your help. The Sierra Leone civil war may be a distant memory to some, but its social effects as well as psychological and emotional scars are still fresh for many children and families.

Ravaged by War

One of the most challenging effects of the civil war that ChildFund and other organizations have faced is the reintegration of former refugees into Sierra Leone; the conflict displaced almost a third of the country's population. We have trained more than 1,000 adults to advocate for children's rights in Sierra Leone and to provide survivors with the psychosocial care and support that is crucial to reintegration.

ChildFund is not the only organization working to restore a sense of balance to life in Sierra Leone. The United Nations established the Mission in Sierra Leone (UNMISL) in 1999. A primary goal of the UNMISL is to ensure peace and stability in the country and provide a safe environment for children and their families. In addition, the U.S. government has provided aid and supplies to Sierra Leone for many years, including a range of development programs designed to promote democratic elections, alleviate food shortages and facilitate access to health care services in rural communities.

The Legacy of Violence

During the war, numerous girls and young women were sexually abused, leaving them with serious physical and emotional injuries. In the years since the Sierra Leone civil war, ChildFund has assisted more than 1,000 girls and women, and our support of girls continues with the enrollment of 600 girls in home-based income generation programs, enabling them to earn a living and contribute to society in a meaningful way. These measures aim to provide victims of abuse with a way to transition back into a normal life. In addition, our Sealing the Past, Facing the Future program provides ongoing emotional support to young people who suffered trauma during the war.

ChildFund has also established Child Well-Being Committees to protect children in need and ensure they do not fall prey to abuse. Even children who are not enrolled in our programs can benefit from ChildFund's drop-in centers, which provide vulnerable children with food, clothing and educational supplies.

Learning to Overcome

As in many African nations, education is considered a luxury for many in Sierra Leone. Approximately 60 percent of school-age children across the country are not enrolled in school, and as a result, these children face an uphill battle to emerge from poverty and secure a better life for themselves. ChildFund has started informal schools in some of Sierra Leone's poorest communities, teaching children basic literacy and math skills.

It will be many years before the memories of war begin to fade. But in the meantime, we have opportunities to help make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their communities. Sponsoring a child is one of the best ways you can invest in the youth of Sierra Leone. Alternatively, a donation to our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog allows us to install clean water pumps in village communities.

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