NI Global Issues for Learners of English > Country profiles > Sierra Leone



Country profile




Area of country: 71,740 square kilometers

Sierra Leone suffered one of the world's bloodiest civil wars from 1991 - 1999, between the government and the rebel Revolutionary United Front. Around 2 million people became refugees, fleeing from the fighting and from the rebels who cut off the hands of men they thought might fight against them, and even mutilated school children.
A peace agreement was reached in July 1999, but the situation in the country remains unstable.

Information at a Glance


Population: 4.6 million
The population is growing at a rate of 2.4% every year.
Temne: 30%; Mende: 30%; others: 39%
Religions: Traditional beliefs: 45%; Islam: 30%; Christianity: 25%


Currency: Leon
GDP per capita: $160. This is one of the lowest figures in the world.
Before the civil war, the GDP was more than double this amount, but the war has destroyed the economy.
Main exports: titanium ore, bauxite, diamonds.
The diamond mining areas are under the control of the rebels, who sell the diamonds to buy weapons.



Life expectancy: 38 years. This is the lowest in the world.
Infant mortality: 182 per 1000
Average calories consumed: 84% of calories needed. Around 29% of children are underweight.
Safe water: 34% of population has access


Poor: the war has destroyed agriculture and the economy.
The country depends on foreign aid and financial support.
Main imports: food, machinery, transport equipment.


Literacy rate: 31%. the fourth lowest in the world.
Languages: English is the official language. The major native languages are Krio, Mende & Temne.

Income Distribution

The economy is basically dead. In reality, there is little in the way of income.


3 regions: the coastal plain (swampy); the tropical forest; eastern plateau (where diamonds are found.)
Problems: Little of the tropical forest remains; most of it has been cut down for agriculture. 85% of the country's natural habitat has been destroyed.


Sierra Leone became independent in 1961.

The situation continues to be unstable after the Civil war. The UN is responsible for a program of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration but progress is unsteady.

In the peace agreement, the rebels were given a complete amnesty and asked to form a political party to take part in the presidential elections planned for 2001.

Freedom & human rights

Human rights: awareness of human rights has increased, in part because of the international interest in Sierra Leone as a result of the civil war.

Position of women: The role of women has also improved since the war, in part because women had a part in ending the war.

Sources: The State of the World's Children 2000; Africa Review 1999, World Guide 1999-2000, NI issue 322

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Last modified 18 June 2000

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