Author(s): Jean-François Trani, Osman Bah, Nicki Bailey, Joyce Browne, Nora Groce
Affiliated organization: Leonard Cheshire Disability in collaboration with London’s Global University.
Type of publication: report
Date of publication: 2017
There is little data about persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone. The studies that do exist lack verifiable statistical data and are methodologically weak (Census 2004) or have looked only at children (UNICEF, 2005). The UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data for Sierra Leone shows that 24% of children were identified as disabled countrywide, whilst the 2004 census found a prevalence rate of 2.7% (adults and children). Such disparities in measurements raise questions about both the quality of the data collected and, the methodologies adopted (Altman 2001). These studies, however, all indicate that there is a large, under-served population of persons with disabilities, due to war, social, political and cultural barriers and poverty.
Gathering data on income, employment, education, health, livelihoods, vulnerability, and poverty provides the necessary information to assist with policy formulation and strategic planning. Evidence-based knowledge and the participation of people with disabilities are vital to the design of equitable and inclusive policies and strategies for Sierra Leone. It is hoped that the findings of this report, by highlighting the current status and opinions of persons with disabilities as well as identifying some of the gaps in service provision, provide useful information to all those who campaign for the rights of disabled people in Sierra Leone within both government and civil society.
Access to services and support
During the years of civil turmoil in Sierra Leone, many people with disabilities lacked support from the government or local and international agencies. Interestingly as a result, they formed their own support groups, many of which later developed into disabled people’s organisations. The increased visibility of people with disabilities in the post-conflict phase has prompted growing awareness about disability rights, and in July 2009, the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) ratified the UNCRPD and Optional Protocol.
There is a large, under-served population of persons with disabilities, due to war, social, political and cultural barriers and poverty
Within a traditional context where family and community are the most important social groupings, financial contributions to the household are also a means of increasing social value and respect within the family. Welfare services and infrastructure development are priorities of both the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community in Sierra Leone; as yet there is very little welfare support available in the country, and most of the services available are part of wider social support schemes, such as free basic education.
The majority of respondents reported being in need of some form of services (82.9%). There was very little difference between the groups and, perhaps surprisingly, a slightly higher proportion of respondents with no reported disabilities stated that they needed services. This may be attributed to the general situation in the country, where employment opportunities are scarce and economic difficulties are widespread among most of the population. Another contributing factor may also be the amount of international aid and development already put into the country, and the potential over-reliance on, and expectation of, such external aid and support.
Significantly fewer respondents with severe or very severe disabilities are accessing social welfare and benefits
However, the data indicates that a small proportion of respondents do have access to services. Significantly fewer respondents with severe or very severe disabilities are accessing social welfare and benefits (only 1.5% compared to 12.4% of non-disabled respondents and 14.3% of respondents with mild or moderate disabilities). In addition, unexpectedly, more non-disabled respondents are accessing rehabilitation services than respondents with mild to very severe disabilities. Respondents with no reported disabilities are also accessing community-based rehabilitation (CBR) and community-based services significantly more than respondents with severe or very severe disabilities, though clearly not all community based services are targeted to persons with disabilities.
However, overall, there are very few services currently available to persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone, despite respondents expressing a high level of need. As a consequence, the majority of respondents do not believe that the Government, NGOs or other organisations are able to provide the support they need. Clearly, the cost of providing social welfare support is currently difficult for the government of Sierra Leone given limited resources and competing demands, but is an important issue to address in future. Most believe the family is where they will receive the most assistance. The extended family can be an important source of support and help for members traditionally seen as most vulnerable; however, agencies need to be wary of assuming that families will automatically be able or willing to provide support to all members. Religion is an important part of life in Sierra Leone, and more respondents with severe or very severe disabilities rely on support from religious organisations than do other respondents (43.3%, compared to 26.3% of non-disabled respondents, and 32.5% of respondents with mild or moderate disabilities).
Respondents with no reported disabilities are also accessing community-based rehabilitation (CBR) and community-based services significantly more than respondents with severe or very severe disabilities
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