Sierra Leone

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CRS in Sierra Leone

CRS in Sierra Leone works in four main sectors; education, health, urban resilience, and agriculture-livelihoods. Under education, our flagship program is the McGovern Dole Food for Education school feeding project which is currently in its fourth phase (2018-2022). The third phase was closed out recently with an overlap with the fourth phase. This is a multisector project with several interventions including school feeding, WASH, nutrition, and SILC.

In health, the main project is the Global Fund Malaria PR grant under which we implement primarily SBCC activities for malaria in the entire country. In the emerging area of urban resilience, CRS Sierra Leone recently started a DFID funded grant (2019-2021) aiming to improve the municipal solid waste management system in Freetown and the RAIN project under which we are positioning to set up a Water Fund for Sierra Leone. There is no agriculture or livelihood project currently. Partnership activities focusing on the church are funded privately.


For over a decade, CRS has implemented the McGovern‑Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program‑sponsored All Pikin for Learn (Every Child Must Learn) project, seeking to increase the literacy of school‑aged boys and girls, and improve health and dietary practices in Koinadugu and Falaba Districts. Now in its fourth phase, this project provides direct support to the ministry’s Education for All action plan, putting a premium on the provision of universal primary education and improved standards for quality education. The project also promotes the government’s Girls Education Strategy, through which girls are empowered through learning. This has led to an almost equal ratio of boys to girls attending schools in the target districts (52% male, 40% female). The fourth phase began in 2018, and will conclude in 2021.  CRS currently feeds 69,000 students a day through its intervention. CRS is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that at the end of this phase, the project will be managed independently by the government and that school feeding will continue sustainably, while CRS continues to engage the education sector through other projects.


Malaria is endemic to Sierra Leone, is still the leading cause of disease and death among children under 5 years and is a serious public health challenge. CRS, with funding from The Global Fund, is a primary recipient of the malaria grant to combat many of these challenges in all 14 districts of the country. CRS focuses on leading the implementation of a series of behavior change activities related to malaria treatment and prevention, these include the training of community members, and multimedia campaigns. The project currently reaches 29,440 persons directly, and these participants then reach over 2 million people in their communities across Sierra Leone. As a primary recipient of the malaria grant, CRS is a leader in health and behavior change efforts in Sierra Leone.


Due to urbanization and climate change, Freetown is host to a very dense population and an extreme rainy season.  Currently, the services available do not meet the needs of the residents in terms of clean water access and solid waste collection. These issues are protracted by the annual floods affecting thousands of residents in extreme hazard prone areas. The Freetown City Council and ministries are working with local partners, including CRS, to meet the dynamic service needs and respond to the shocks faced by the capital city. This work includes planning with FCC and other NGO partners on a regeneration project for slum communities.

In 2019 CRS began two projects to proactively improve urban resilience.  First, CRS is working with Concern and the Freetown City Council to install seven transfer stations across the city to improve solid waste management through funding from DFID.  Second, CRS is working with FEDURP to implement the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) project with funding from Coca Cola.  This project works on nature based reforestation efforts and repairing water points inside communities.  The RAIN project also provides important data and pilot testing for the potential Freetown Water Fund, planning to launch in 2020. The Freetown Water fund will be a forum for integrated water management from catchment area to water point access brought together by The Nature Conservancy with CRS, then sustainably managed by a governance structure composed of government, private sector, and civil society actors.

In addition to these proactive resilience efforts, CRS also works with our local Caritas partners and the local government to respond to emergencies inside Freetown.  In 2017, CRS was a major actor in the mudslide response efforts.  In 2019, CRS supported the assessment and shelter efforts after the fire in Susan’s Bay and was one of four international NGOs funded by Start Fund to respond to the major floods in early to mid-August.



School Meals in Sierra Leone

With support from the USDA's McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, CRS is helping change the future for Sierra Leone’s children. In addition to providing students with a warm, nutritious meal every school day, we are also training teachers, which is critical to improving the quality of education. Click to see how we’re making an impact.



Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS



People Served: 3,727,339

Population: 7,092,113

Size: 75,955 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than South Dakota


CRS' History in Sierra Leone

Catholic Relief Services started work in Sierra Leone in 1963. During the 1970s and 1980s, CRS focused efforts on supporting education projects and health centers for mothers and children. Between 1991 and 2002, civil war killed more than 20,000 people and displaced and destroyed the livelihoods of millions more. In response to the war, CRS Sierra Leone, like most international agencies operating in the country, shifted strategy from development aid to emergency relief. By 1995, CRS was supporting displaced populations throughout the country with food, medicine, clothing, shelter and household items. 

After the war ended in 2002, the focus of government and nongovernmental agencies turned to safeguarding peace and transitioning to development. In March 2004, CRS and other international agencies launched a three-year development program. Staff members worked side-by-side with communities devastated by war to execute plans designed to restore livelihoods and improve the food security and health status of rural households. 

The programs implemented by Catholic Relief Services and our partners in Sierra Leone are helping to rebuild the country from the inside out. In a country as fragile as Sierra Leone, peacebuilding is crucial. Integrating peacebuilding in our projects is a major focus for CRS.

In spite of the natural resources in Sierra Leone, more than 60% of the population in the country lives below the national poverty line. About 62% of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for food and income. Nearly 75% of the total land area is arable. However, the majority of the rural poor are smallholders with land holding averaging from 0.5-2.0 hectares. Size of land, farm inputs and technical know-how are some of the primary limitations for smallholder farmers and that's why CRS is working with farmers to broaden their farming knowledge and business management skills.  

As infrastructure was rebuilt after the war, community health programs ensured the well-being of the people of Sierra Leone. CRS has invested in nutrition and health education for students. 

While Sierra Leone's medical facilities are improving, the situation is still dire. For many Sierra Leoneans, health services are too expensive, forcing families to turn to traditional medicine and poorly trained health workers. CRS helps poor and vulnerable people access health care services, and encourages them to take greater responsibility for these services. In one CRS health program, the staff organizes immunizations for children under 5 years old and counsels mothers about feeding and caring for newborns. 

CRS also is heavily involved in raising awareness about malaria and Ebola prevention in Sierra Leone. Malaria is the number one cause of child mortality in Sierra Leone. This preventable and treatable disease causes nearly 40% of the deaths of children under 5. The national strategy seeks to provide access to malaria control for all, including increasing the percentage of cases treated promptly and effectively from 50 to 80% and ensuring that at least 80% of the population has access to, and knowledge to use, at least one preventative method.