Sightsavers in Sierra Leone

We work with governments and health districts in Sierra Leone and across Africa to deliver vital charity work and improve health care services for everyone.

Sierra Leone, in Western Africa, has a population of more than eight million people.

The majority of people in Sierra Leone are employed in agricultural work and live outside urban areas. About 60% of people live below the poverty line, making it one of the world’s poorest countries.

Access to health care and education is gradually improving as the country rebuilds vital infrastructure and public services that were destroyed during the 10-year civil war. In 2010, free health care for pregnant women, new mothers and young children was introduced to reduce the high levels of maternal mortality.

Investment in education and employment programmes is also ensuring that more opportunities are open to young people, particularly women and people with disabilities, who are often marginalised in society.

Sierra Leone facts

  • Population: 8.5 million
  • Capital: Freetown
  • Official language: English
  • Human development index (HDI) ranking: 181 (low)

58% of blindness in Sierra Leone is treatable

River blindness is most prevalent in rural areas of the country

1.3% of the population has a disability

Sources: Sightsavers ,Infectious Diseases of Poverty, UN

A remote village with a dusty road running through it. There are lush green palm trees in the background.

What challenges do people face in Sierra Leone, and how can these be addressed?

A remote village with a dusty road running through it. There are lush green palm trees in the background.

Eye care

In Sierra Leone there are only six ophthalmologists to treat the population of the entire country.

Millions of people are unable to access eye care services because of a lack of qualified staff and vital resources. Sightsavers’ charity work in Sierra Leone focuses on tackling the causes of avoidable blindness, such as cataracts and refractive error.

An eye health worker wearing a mask and face shield checks a child's eyes for signs of eye disease.

Our eye care work in Sierra Leone

Eye health clinics

The Sierra Leone eye care programme provides eye screening clinics and treatment for people who need spectacles or surgery.
About the eye health programme

Training staff

By helping to recruit and train the next generation of eye care staff, we aim to improve eye care services across the country.
Learn about eye health roles

Tackling gender bias

Our eye health programmes in Sierra Leone focus on improving access to services for women and girls, who are often marginalised.
Meet ophthalmologist Dr Jalikatu

Infectious diseases

River blindness is a problem in 12 of the 14 health districts in Sierra Leone.

People in Sierra Leone are at a very high risk of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which can cause illness and disability. Our work on NTDs in the country focuses on treating and preventing river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

A close-up of an eye health worker's hands as he shines a light into a patient's eyes to check for signs of trachoma.

How we’re tackling disease in Sierra Leone

Local volunteers

We train volunteers to distribute medication in the community, check people for eye disease and refer them for treatment where needed.
About community volunteers


Collecting data about the causes of blindness, and the areas most affected, helps us learn where treatment is needed.
Our in-house research

Working in partnership

We work with partners on programmes such as the Ascend initiative, to pool expertise and ensure more people are treated.
About the Ascend programme

Inclusion and equality

Not everyone in Sierra Leone can claim their rights.

People with disabilities and women often face stigma and discrimination in society. Our charity work on disability rights in Sierra Leone focuses on improving everyone’s access to health care and education.

Abdul stands outside his school after receiving cataract surgery.

Our inclusion work in Sierra Leone

Inclusive education

In the Education for All initiative, we work with the local government to make schools more inclusive for children with disabilities.
About Education for All

Tackling discrimination

Our inclusive education work helps to challenge social stigma and discrimination around disability, so all students can get an education.
Read student Saio’s story

Collecting data

We support the government and organisations to collect inclusive data that accurately represents people with disabilities.
Why inclusive data is important

Dr Jalikatu smiles while wearing her surgical coat.

“We’re doing free surgical or clinical outreaches aimed at women and girls, in particular, to get them to come to the hospital.”

Dr Jalikatu smiles while wearing her surgical coat.
Dr Jalikatu is based at Connaught Hospital in Freetown

How you can help

Our charity work in Sierra Leone is helping to transform people’s lives, but there’s still more we need to do.

With your support, we want to improve access to eye care services, protect people from diseases like river blindness and ensure everyone, particularly women and girls, can learn, earn and thrive. To do this, we need your help.

Charity donations, legacies, corporate partnerships and gifts from charitable foundations are a vital source of funding for our programmes in Sierra Leone. We also welcome opportunities to work in partnership with governments, institutions and development organisations.

Contact us: If you have any questions about our work in Sierra Leone, would like more details about our programmes or wish to discuss ways you can donate or support us, email [email protected]

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Saio stands outside wearing her school uniform and backpack.
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Dr Jalikatu uses ophthalmology equipment to examine a man's eyes.
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“As a woman, you’re always trying to prove that you belong”

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A man has his eyes checked for signs of trachoma.

World’s largest trachoma surveys reach 50th country

Sierra Leone has become the 50th country to be surveyed for trachoma as part of the initiative, with one person being examined for trachoma every 26 seconds since the surveys began in 2012.

July 2021

Discover where Sightsavers works in Africa and Asia

Where we work