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Situated on the North Atlantic coast of West Africa, Sierra Leone is small but densely populated. The country ranks close to the bottom of the Human Development Index, and more than half of its population lives on less than US$1.90 a day. Nearly half the population is food insecure.

Urban settlements account for less than 2 percent of Sierra Leone’s entire land area but are home to almost 40 percent of the population, most of whom live in extreme poverty. Of the rest of the population, over three quarters are engaged in agriculture as their main livelihood activity, generally at subsistence level.

Almost half of all child deaths in Sierra Leone are attributable to malnutrition, the single greatest cause of child mortality in the country. Families cannot afford the fortified foods needed to save their children. Nationally, nearly one third of under-fives are chronically malnourished. Global acute malnutrition, which encompasses both moderate and severe forms, stands at 4.7 percent. In the Northern districts of Bombali and Tonkolili, however, the incidence of severe acute malnutrition in under-fives is up to two times higher than the national average. 

Just over half of the country’s land area is used for agriculture, but only about a fifth, mainly in the uplands and inland swamps, is arable. Agricultural output and development are constrained by labour shortages, lack of agricultural equipment, poor quality seeds and high post-harvest losses.

Deforestation, land degradation and climate change have also limited growth. Production of rice, the country’s staple food, has declined to such an extent that only 4 percent of farmers produce enough to meet their own needs. Most rice, therefore, is now imported, increasing vulnerability to price fluctuations.

Between 1991 and 2001, economic development stalled due to civil war. GDP growth, which peaked at almost 21 percent in 2013 thanks to  strong mining exports, slowed down again in 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak which killed 4,000 people in the country and devastated communities and livelihoods – and the fall of iron ore prices.

WFP has been present in Sierra Leone since 1968. Our work focuses on addressing malnutrition in vulnerable groups and supporting the Government’s National Ebola Recovery Strategy to ‘build back better’ following the disease outbreak that diminished food and nutrition security throughout the country.


6.45 million people
52.9 percent
of people live below the national poverty line
1.3 percent (±0.4)
HIV prevalence rate among adults

What the World Food Programme is doing in Sierra Leone

  • Maternal and child nutrition

    Sierra Leone now provides free health care for pregnant and nursing mothers, and for under-fives. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WFP implements a supplementary feeding programme to treat moderate acute malnutrition in lactating mothers and children under five. To prevent stunting, WFP also provides complementary feeding during the 1,000 day window to increase the nutrient density of diets.

  • Post-Ebola recovery

    WFP aims to help meet the basic food and nutritional needs of vulnerable groups, including Ebola orphans and survivors, many of whom are experiencing chronic health problems and difficulties reintegrating into their communities. Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free in January 2016, but in case of another flare-up, WFP stands ready to provide food rations to those who require treatment and to families affected by quarantine measures.

  • Food by prescription for people living with HIV and TB

    With 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.

  • Strengthening agricultural livelihoods

    Through a Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme, WFP and its partners help smallholder farmer increase production capacity and enable them to access sustainable, formal markets. Through farmer-based organizations and agricultural business centres, WFP supports 10,000 farmers, 55 percent of whom are women, in building their capabilities in post-harvest management, quality handling, nutrition sensitive agriculture and women’s leadership.

  • Promoting resilience

    To promote resilience, economic growth and agricultural development, WFP conducts food-for-training and asset creation activities to support the most food insecure communities throughout the country.

  • Emergency preparedness and response

    Building on the infrastructure and logistics capacity established during the Ebola outbreak, WFP continues to support government efforts to maintain response readiness for future emergencies. WFP, in coordination with the Government’s Office of National Security, conducts logistics trainings and simulations on preparedness and response for Ebola flare-ups and other disasters, including seasonal flooding

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