Why Help Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is an impoverished but beautiful and proud nation struggling to become self-reliant. It is about the size of South Carolina and its estimated population is 5 million people. The United Nations has listed Sierra Leone as one of the fifty (50) least developed countries (LDC) in the world, a distinction it shares with countries like Haiti, the Sudan and Somalia. Like these other countries Sierra Leone suffers from tremendous income inequality, which makes the nature of its impoverishment even more intense. According to the UN Sierra Leone’s GDP per capita is $500 per year. Much of the country’s current woes can be traced to the eleven year rebel war that it endured.
The war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 left the country and its people in ruins. The war was born of the corruption and poverty that plagued the country since its independence and it was fueled by the greed for diamonds. Blood diamonds (the film Blood Diamond is about this war), or conflict diamonds as they are more euphemistically known, were mined by innocent civilians, smuggled out of Sierra Leone and used to pay for weapons.
The attacking rebels identified themselves as Sierra Leoneans of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and were led by a cashiered army corporal named Foday Sankoh. But Charles Taylor, who had been fighting for power in neighboring Liberia, bears much of the responsibility. This war spread to every corner of Sierra Leone and required one of the largest contingents of United Nations forces ever deployed to extinguish.
Like the crooked officials who controlled the government, the RUF targeted Sierra Leone’s five million civilians, killing them, raping them, mutilating them, destroying their homes, stealing their possessions and even their children, turning some into soldiers who would commit more atrocities.
The war not only led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans and brought about millions of dollars in property damage, it also brought its economy to a stand still. While Sierra Leone’s political situation is now stable, its infrastructure is still a shambles. Schools, hospitals, clinics and government buildings were all destroyed during the war.
The Sierra Leonean government, the United Nations and NGOs cannot possibly provide the support necessary to all of the communities. Most villages and towns in rural areas are on their own with respect to the rebuilding of their communities.
The people of these villages have mobilized to rebuild their infrastructure as much as they can. We are empowered to help supply them with the financial support and materials needed to complete the job so that they can realize the dream of self-reliance they were heading towards before the war.