Disability in Sierra Leone

The populations of Sierra Leone and Liberia contain a high proportion of disabled people. JHR International estimates that of Sierra Leone’s population of five million, at least 450,000 people are considered disabled. This includes the blind, deaf, people with polio, and the war wounded and amputees. The high figure of people living with physical disability stems back to the war where the trademark of rebel activities was to hack off the limbs of civilians. The overall figure for the disabled population could well be an under-estimation (partly because records are not complete, partly because definitions of disability vary greatly – for instance, mental health is not widely considered a disability), but the crux of the matter is that the government does not provide any support for disabled people.

Stanley wheelchair repair kits are part of the items we give out. The tool kit is used to repair wheelchairs within the community.
Stanley wheelchair repair kits are part of the items we give out. The tool kit is used to repair wheelchairs within the community.

The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranks Sierra Leone at 183, and Liberia at 175 (2013) (up from 182 in 2010) of 187 (using the Human Development Indicator (HDI)). Sierra Leone’s HDI of 0.374 in 2013 is below the Sub-Saharan Africa regional average of 0.389, revealing the extent of underdevelopment in the country. Disabled people are systemically marginalised and they often face barriers when taking part in education, employment and social activities. In a 2009 study of disability in Sierra Leone, only 32% of the disabled people surveyed said they had a job (this includes begging and menial jobs). Many disabled people (16.4%) have no access to healthcare as compared to non-disabled people (7.1%). In addition, according to the United Nations Development Programme, only 35% of Sierra Leone’s population above 15 years of age have some form of education. The statistic is even lower for disabled people.

What we do

We are working with disability groups across three regions in Sierra Leone – Western Area, Southern and Eastern Regions.
We are the largest provider of skills training and professional tools, and mobility aids to disability groups in Sierra Leone.

Our partners

  • Mobility Sierra Leone – Bo
  • Opportunity Training Centre – Kenema
  • United Polio Brothers & Sisters Association – Shell Polio Training Centre – Freetown

These groups are run entirely by disabled people, teaching skills and producing good-quality domestic utensils, window and door frames, and other goods to the local market.

We go in big – i.e. providing the right and necessary tools that they need, and making sure that they are fully equipped for the work that they do.

We are presently working with two of the largest disability groups in Southern and Eastern Sierra Leone. These two groups (based in Bo and Kenema (respective regional headquarter towns of Southern and Eastern Sierra Leone) receive large donations of professional equipment and tools, and mobility aids.

Case Studies