Sierra Leone is a small country of around 7 million people, on the coast of West Africa. Although well off the tourist trail, it is unrivalled in the natural beauty of its beaches and tropical forest, and its vibrant friendly people. However, the recent history of Sierra Leone has been overshadowed by a brutal civil war which raged between 1991 and 2002, and the Ebola epidemic in 2014/15. It’s no surprise that the country remains firmly in the lowest category of global economic development. It is chronically poor – one of the poorest countries in the world.
The United Nations 2011 report on disability states that around 15% of the population of developing countries could be disabled. In a population of seven million, that is around one million people who are likely to be disabled. In a country which is already challenging to live in, disabled people in Sierra Leone face additional disadvantage and considerable prejudice. A 2009 study by Leonard Cheshire Disability into urban disability in Sierra Leone concluded that:
• 50% of women and 34% of men have never been to school
• Around one third of disabled people of working age are in employment, with 69% reporting having no income at all
• 16.4% have no access to healthcare
• 39% don’t participate in social events
It is not surprising that disabled people in Sierra Leone constitute a significant percentage of those living in abject poverty. Many have no choice but to turn to begging to survive. This perpetuates the perception that disability is linked to poverty and re-enforces the prejudice persons with disabilities already experience.
|The red mark shows Sierra Leone in relation to the global map|