Sierra Leone Orphans

Sierra Leone Orphans

Losing your parents and becoming an orphan is difficult enough for any child, however in Sierra Leone, many of these children watched on in horror as they became orphans in front of their very eyes as their parents were butchered by rebel forces during the Sierra Leone civil war between 1991 and 2002. In addition some 17,000 Sierra Leone children have become orphans after losing their parents to AIDS (4000 children are themselves infected.) Figures from UNICEF, whilst out of date (2006), indicate that there are some 320,000 orphans in Sierra Leone out of a population of just over six million. In a country with high illiteracy rates and being one of the poorest countries in the world, the life outcomes for these children appear limited as already poor families simply don't have the resources to offer a home to an orphaned child, barely coping to provide for their own children, let alone one who is severely traumatised.

During the war itself, many of these orphans fled the violence to what they believed would be the safety of refugee camps on the Sierra Leone /Liberia border, however far from finding safety, these children, with no adults there to protect them, found themselves in dire need of medical and food attention and preyed on by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (the militia at war with the government in pursuit of control of the country's diamond mines), where they were recruited as child soldiers and forced into underage sexual activity in exchange for scraps of food or money. Many were brutalised and maimed during this time. A later study found that over 70% of these orphans had contemplated suicide.

Sierra Leone Orphans

As one child commented "I feel like I have no purpose, like there is no meaning to it .... I have to struggle just to get clothes for us. I beg to eat." Life is tough enough for all children in Sierra Leone, however, without education nor social support many of these orphans end up on the streets of towns like Freetown and many more former child soldiers find themselves unable to adjust to any form of normality having learned one lesson in life, how to grasp power through violence. However there are organisations such as SOS Children's Villages who have been working hard for decades, even before the civil war, to provide the best care possible for these orphans, even when their own staff and facilities came under rebel attack during the war. This video documentary explores the charity's work with orphans in Sierra Leone.

Indicator (2009) Number
Orphans 0-17yrs through AIDS 17,000
Orphans 0-17yrs all causes 320,000
Orphan % attending education 62%
Street children in Sierra Leone 49,698

The chart above provides a breakdown of the orphans in Sierra Leone out of a total child population of 2,753,000 million children.

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