The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Sierra Leone:
- Maternity Crisis
125 out of 1,000 mothers in Sierra Leone are under age 20 according to a 2017 United Nations Population Fund Study. Maternity in Sierra Leone is particularly dangerous for adolescent mothers and 20 % of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone were among teenagers. A 2015 law banned pregnant girls from attending school, and parents describe teenage pregnancy as the “ultimate shame” for a family.
The country has the highest maternal death rate in the world, with one in 17 women dying from pregnancy or birth complications. This number could be even higher, as Sierra Leone’s 2017 Maternal Death and Surveillance Report estimated that seven in 10 maternal deaths go unreported.
Water pollution is a significant problem in Sierra Leone due to mining by-products and sewage. The nation has 160 cubic kilometers of renewable water resource, with 89% used for farming and 4% for industrial purposes. Only 75% of the nation’s city dwellers and 46% of those living in rural areas have safe drinking water.
The population of Sierra Leoneans living below the poverty line is now at 60 percent. District level poverty analysis showed that by 2011 most districts had converged to poverty levels between 50 and 60 percent, with the exceptions being Freetown at 20.7 percent and levels above 70 percent in Moyamba and Tonkolili. Rural poverty was 66.1 percent in 2011, compared with 78.7 percent in 2003. Urban poverty was 31.2 percent in 2011, a decline from 46.9 percent in 2003.
Sierra Leone faces an alarming level of hunger, with approximately 38 % of children younger than 5 years of age suffering from stunting, a manifestation of chronic malnutrition. The UN World Food Program and the World Bank report that over half of the population lives under the national poverty line.
The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic undermined food security in Sierra Leone. Many households experienced new or increased food insecurity as the outbreak disrupted income-generating opportunities, decreased purchasing power and restricted movements and market activities.
According to the 2011 SLIHS, 56 percent of adults over the age of 15 have never attended formal school. The percentage of adults without access is higher for women than for men, 64 percent versus 47 percent, and higher in rural areas compared to urban, 73 percent versus 31 percent. In 2003, 18 percent of 17 year olds, who should have been in their final year of secondary school, were enrolled in primary school, compared with three percent in secondary. By 2011, only six percent of 17 year olds were enrolled in primary school, compared with 24 percent in secondary school.