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Project case Sierra Leone: mission completed

Conflict and consequences

A civil war tore Sierra Leone apart. For more than 10 years the country was the scene of a ground war between rebel groups, often having child soldiers in their ranks. Recovery from the war has been slow due to a lack of political and economic reforms, and their negative impact on the economy’s capacity to generate employment and basic services. Widespread dissatisfaction over widening socio-economic problems and corruption set the stage for potential political instability.

Children in Sierra Leone Because of their war experiences, children and young people became either aggressive and violent or withdrawn and quiet. Quarrels and violence predominated in communities. Nowadays, children still live in abject poverty, lacking access to health and education services. The tradition of not listening to children is still there, issues affecting children and youth have little priority. The unemployed and socially alienated young people remain a perennial threat to security.

Facts & Figures

Human Development Index: 180 (out of 187)

In the civil war:

  •  75,000 people were killed including 40,000 children*
  • 72,500 combatants were disarmed*
  • 2 million people had to flee from the violence*

*Source: 'Mid-range Wars and Atrocities of the Twenty-First Century’

Project activities

Psychosocial support

  • Creative workshops for children to share their experiences.
  • I DEAL, where children learn to work together.


  • Vocational training
  • Literacy, numeracy and math
  • Livelihood skills

Child protection

  • Child protection training.
  • Performing for Peace and photography for children’s' rights: children and young people show their communities and politicians what their problems are on stage and in exhibitions.
  • Design Child and Youth Support Structures, consisting of children, parents, teachers and village leaders who follow-up cases of abuse in their community.


In 2012, War Child facilitated an independent final evaluation process on the programme in Sierra Leone to assess the quality, impact and sustainability of the programme. Some of the prevalent results are:

1. Harmony rather than aggression and violence
A major change is the return of harmony in the war-torn communities. Through War Child's programmes children have regained confidence and have learned to express themselves. They are able to peacefully resolve conflicts.

2. Children play again and go to school
As a result of extensive awareness-raising campaigns, attention for children's rights, including the right to education and the right to play, increased enormously in communities where War Child has worked. This has also led to behavioural change: children went back to school, can play freely and are forced to work less often.

3. Everyone participates
An important success factor of the programme was the full involvement of all community members. Activities addressed the issues chosen and set out by the people themselves.

Lessons learned

Children's clubs, where children, young people and adults organised events, were discontinued when War Child left. To make these clubs sustainable, they should be organised at school level so that the school board or local government can assume responsibility. In a similar project in South Sudan, War Child has organised children’s clubs in this way.

Children were given an active role in influencing local and national political leaders. This was positively evaluated. However, the local cultural context made it difficult for children to actively influence decisions made on matters that concern them. Children were allowed to be present, but could not give any input in the decision-making process.

The evaluation shows that we succeeded in empowering children. However, we didn’t pay enough attention to the structures in which children could actually be heard. In future projects we will discuss this issue with the responsible authorities in order to find appropriate ways for children and youth to contribute to decision-making, if only it is on an advisory basis.


After 12 years, War Child finished its work in Sierra Leone at the end of January. The country has recovered from the war. A new local organisation consisting of former War Child staff continues to support children and young people in Sierra Leone on an independent basis.

Project information
Duration: 2001 – 2013
Locations: Non-formal education centres and safe learning spaces in rural communities in Port Loko, Bombali, Kambia and Bonthe districts, and Freetown
Target groups:

  • Children and young people aged 10 to 25
  • Community members
  • Members of established community groups
  • Public officials and duty bearers in district towns
  • National politicians


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