Official name. Republic of Sierra Leone
Capital and largest city. Freetown 8°29.067′N 13°14.067′W
Official languages. English. Spoken languages. Temne Mende Krio
Ethnic groups. 35% Temne, 31% Mende, 8% Limba, 5% Kono, 2% Krio (Creole), 2% Mandingo, 2% Loko, 15% others
Demonym. Sierra Leonean
Government. Unitary presidential constitutional republic. President. Ernest Bai Koroma (APC)
Independence from the United Kingdom 27 April 1961
Area. Total 71,740 km2 (119th)
Population. 2015 census 7,075,641. Density. 79.4/km2
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate. Total $9.881b. Per capita. $1,534
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate. Total $4.563b. Per capita $708
MONEY. Leone (SLL) with a floating exchange rate system. Leone coins have values of SLL50, SLL100 and SLL500. Bank notes are SLL1000, SLL2,000, SLL5,000 and SLL10,000.
Credit card (Visa only) use is limited in Sierra Leone, though they may be used at some hotels and restaurants. There are ATMs in Freetown most are not internationally linked. Rokel Commercial Bank has ATMs that accept international Visa cards. As of Nov 2014, there are 4 ATMs in the arrivals area of Lungi airport, all of which seem to accept international debit cards.
Exchanging money is very easy, either through the black market or banks. The small bank at the airport offers reasonable rates. Pounds sterling, euro or US dollars are most popular, although others are possible.
Visa-free entrY. Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require a visa to enter the country. Citizens of Kenya can obtain a visa on arrival to Sierra Leone. Nationals of Iran issued with diplomatic and service passports can stay a maximum stay of 1 month without a visa.
Visa. All other nationalities will require a visa. Issued at Sierra Leone’s overseas missions and at the land borders. Visas are not too hard to get, it is unlikely that anyone will be refused unless there is a very good reason for the government not to want them in the country. Visa prices vary considerably based on your citizenship: US US$130, UK £50, German €100, while most others can get away with as little as $40.
Application form and a copy, passport and a, a copy of the Guinean visa page, yellow fever vaccination, a booking confirmation or a letter of invitation, 2 ID pictures and and money. Come early in the morning (9 am), expect to be invited for a detailed interview taking places a few hours later and possibly to get the visa the next day (official maximum being 72h). The process is clean and you will get a receipt for your payment.
Extensions in Freetown (1 moYellow Fever vaccination certificates are required for most nationalities.nth, twice) for a variable fee depending on country and no “extra fees”.
Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea on the north, Liberia in the south-east, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south-west. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Sierra Leone has a total area of 71,740 km2 and a population of 7,075,641 (2015 national census). Freetown is the capital, largest city and its economic and political centre. Bo is the second largest city.
About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. Although English is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, the Krio language is the most widely spoken language in Sierra Leone and unites all the different ethnic groups in the country, especially in their trade and social interaction with each other.
Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country, though with an influential Christian minority. Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully. Religious violence is very rare in the country.
Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold, and has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone is home to the third-largest natural harbour in the world. Despite exploitation of this natural wealth, 70% of its people live in poverty.
Sierra Leone became independent in 1961. Government corruption and mismanagement of the country’s natural resources contributed to the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991 to 2002), which for more than a decade devastated the country. This proxy war left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries.
More recently, the 2014 Ebola outbreak overburdened the weak healthcare infrastructure, leading to more deaths from medical neglect than Ebola itself. It created a humanitarian crisis situation and a negative spiral of weaker economic growth. The country has an extremely low life expectancy at 57.8 years.
Sierra Leone is a member of many international organisations, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Development Bank, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Sierra Leone’s dense tropical rainforest and swampy environment was considered impenetrable; it was also host to the tsetse fly, which carried disease fatal to horses and zebu cattle used by the Mande people. This environmental factor protected its peoples from conquest by the Mande and other African empires. This also reduced the Islamic influence of the Mali Empire. But the Islamic faith, introduced by Susu traders, merchants and migrants from the north and east, became widely adopted in the 18th century.
Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years, populated by successive cultures of peoples who migrated from other parts of Africa. The people adopted the use of iron by the 9th century, and by 1000 AD agriculture was being practised by coastal tribes. The climate changed considerably during that time, and boundaries among different ecological zones changed as well, affecting migration and conquest.
European contacts within Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the hills surrounding Freetown Harbour, naming the shaped formation Serra da Leoa or “Serra Leoa” (Portuguese for Lioness Mountains). By 1495 traders had built a fortified trading post. The Dutch and French also set up trade here, and each nation used Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves brought by African traders from interior areas. In 1562, the English initiated the Triangle Trade when Sir John Hawkins transported 300 enslaved Africans – acquired “by the sword and partly by other means” – to the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean, where he sold them.
Early colonies. Following the American Revolutionary War, the British evacuated thousands of freed African-American slaves and resettled them in Canadian and Caribbean colonies and London which gave them new lives. In 1787 the British Crown founded a settlement in Sierra Leone in what was called the “Province of Freedom”. It intended to resettle some of the “Black Poor of London,” mostly African Americans freed by the British during the war. About 400 blacks and 60 whites reached Sierra Leone on 15 May 1787. The group also included some West Indians of African descent from London. After they established Granville Town, most of the first group of colonists died, owing to disease and warfare with the indigenous African peoples (Temne and Mende), who resisted their encroachment. The 64 remaining colonists established a second Granville Town.
Following the Revolution, more than 3,000 Black Loyalists had also been settled in Nova Scotia, where they were finally granted land. They founded Birchtown, Nova Scotia, but faced harsh winters and racial discrimination. The Sierra Leone Company was established to relocate these Black Loyalists who wanted to take their chances in West Africa. In 1792 nearly 1200 persons from Nova Scotia crossed the Atlantic to build the second (and only permanent) Colony of Sierra Leone at Freetown on 11 March 1792. In Sierra Leone they were called the Nova Scotian Settlers, the Nova Scotians, or the Settlers.
The Settlers built Freetown in the styles they knew from their lives in the American South, continued American fashion and manners and many continued to practice Methodism. Society-building was a harsh struggle. The Crown did not supply enough basic supplies and provisions, and the Settlers were continually threatened by illegal slave trading and the risk of re-enslavement. In the 1790s, they, including adult women, voted in elections, but The Sierra Leone Company, controlled by London investors, refused to allow the settlers to take freehold of the land. In 1799 some of the Settlers revolted. The Crown subdued the revolt by bringing in forces of more than 500 Jamaican Maroon people.
On 1 January 1808, Thomas Ludlam, the Governor of the Sierra Leone Company and a leading abolitionist, surrendered the Company’s charter. This ended its 16 years of running the Colony. The British Crown reorganised the Sierra Leone Company as an African Institution; it was directed to improve the local economy.
At about the same time (following the abolition of the slave trade in 1807), British crews delivered thousands of formerly enslaved Africans to Freetown, after liberating them from illegal slave ships. They were sold for $20 a head as apprentices to the white settlers, Nova Scotian Settlers, and the Jamaican Maroons. Though this was not slavery, many were treated poorly and abused. They built a flourishing trade in flowers and beads on the West African coast.
During the 19th century, freed black Americans, some Americo Liberian ‘refugees’, and particularly West Indians, also immigrated and settled in Freetown. Together these peoples created a new creole ethnicity called the Krio people (initially called Creoles) and a trading language, Krio, which became commonly used among many of the ethnicities in the country.
Colonial era (1800–1960). As documentation was inaccurate and names changed, there were difficulties in tracking people. Some were thus subject to recapture and replaced in the slavery-like qualities of the apprenticeship system.
In the early 19th century, Freetown administered the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Gambia. Sierra Leone developed as the educational centre of British West Africa. The British established Fourah Bay College here in 1827, which rapidly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. For more than a century, it was the only European-style university in western Sub-Saharan Africa.
The British interacted mostly with the Krios in Freetown. They did most of the trading with the indigenous peoples of the interior. In addition, educated Krios held numerous positions in the colonial government, giving them status and good-paying positions.
Following the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the UK decided that it needed to establish more dominion over the inland areas, to satisfy what was described by the European powers as “effective occupation” of territories. In 1896 Britain annexed inland areas, declaring them the Sierra Leone Protectorate. They did not maintain relationships even with longtime allies, such as Bai Bureh, chief of Kasseh, a community on the Small Scarcies River. He was later unfairly portrayed as a prime instigator of the Hut Tax war in 1898.A tax on dwellings was instituted in 1898, the chiefs resisted payment and started the Hut Tax war, also called the Temne-Mende War. The British fired first. The Northern front of majority Temne people was led by Bai Bureh who finally surrendered on 11 November 1898 to end the destruction of his people’s territory and dwellings. The government hanged 96 of the chief’s warriors. Bai Bureh was allowed to return in 1905, when he resumed his chieftaincy of Kasseh.
The defeat of the Temne and Mende in the Hut Tax war ended large-scale organised resistance to the colonial government. But, resistance continued throughout the colonial period in the form of intermittent, wide-scale rioting and chaotic labour disturbances, the worst in 1955 and 1956.
Domestic slavery, which continued to be practised by local African elites, was abolished in 1928. In 1935, a 90-year monopoly on mineral and diamond mining was given to De Beers. This drew labourers there from other parts of the country.
Independence. In 1953, Sierra Leone was granted local ministerial powers, held its first parliamentary election in 1958 and the United Kingdom granted Sierra Leone Independence on 27 April 1961. Sir Milton Margai became the country’s first Prime Minister. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans took to the streets in celebration. Sierra Leone retained a parliamentary system of government and was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Sir Milton was very popular among Sierra Leoneans during his time in power and known for his self-effacement. He was neither corrupt nor did he make a lavish display of his power or status. He based the government on the rule of law and the separation of powers, with multiparty political institutions and fairly viable representative structures.
Final years of democracy (1964–1967)
Upon Sir Milton’s unexpected death in 1964, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, was appointed as Prime Minister but he resorted to increasingly authoritarian actions in response to protests and enacted several laws against the opposition whilst attempting to establish a one-party state.He also opposed the colonial legacy of allowing executive powers to the Paramount Chiefs. In 1967, riots broke out in Freetown against Sir Albert’s policies
Military coups (1967–1968). Elections were narrowly won Siaka Stevens. Within hours of taking office, Stevens was ousted in a bloodless military coup led by Brigadier General David Lansana, the commander of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces. On 23 March 1967, a second coup was led by Brigadier General Andrew Juxon-Smith. On 18 April 1968 a third coup led by Brigadier General John Amadu Bangura, overthrew the NRC junta, reinstated the constitution and returned power to Stevens, who at last assumed the office of Prime Minister.
One-party state (1968–1991). Stevens championed multi-party politics and brought the tribes together. Under pressure of several coup attempts, real and perceived, Stevens’ rule grew more and more authoritarian, his relationship with some of his ardent supporters deteriorated and he used of violence and intimidation.
The Army was greatly disappointed with Stevens’ policies. Brigadier General Bangura was a threat to Stevens and he was executed by hanging. On 23 March 1971, soldiers loyal to Bangura held a mutiny that was put down. The 1972 elections were plagued by intimidation and procedural obstruction by the APC and militia and the APC won 84 of the 85 elected seats.
Plots to overthrow Stevens failed in 1974 and 1975 In March 1976 and all leaders were executed. Demonstrations were put down bythe Special Security Division (SSD) force, a heavily armed paramilitary force he had created to protect him and to maintain his hold on power. The SSD officers were very loyal to Stevens and were deployed across Sierra Leone to put down any rebellion. In the general election, corruption was endemic. The 1978 constitution made the APC the only legal political party in Sierra Leone.
On a positive note, he kept the country stable and from going into civil war. He built several government instititutions that are used by the government today. Stevens also reduced ethnic polarisation in government by incorporating members of various ethnic groups into his all-dominant APC government. Stevens retired from politics in November 1985 after being in power for eighteen years. He was succeeded by Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, the commander of the Armed Forces and like Stevens, a member of the minority Limba ethnic group. Momoh was elected President as the only contesting candidate but he was also corrupt, a coup was attempted in 1987 and perpetrators hung.
Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002) Despite a new constitution re-establishing mulit-party rule, abuse of power continued and the brutal civil war going on in neighbouring Liberia
In October 1990, owing to mounting pressure from both within and outside the country for political and economic reform, president Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to assess the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission’s recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by the exclusive APC Parliament by a 60% majority vote, becoming effective on 1 October 1991. There was great suspicion that president Momoh was not serious about his promise of political reform, as APC rule continued to be increasingly marked by abuses of power.
The brutal civil war that was going on in neighbouring Liberia played a significant role in the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone. On 29 April 1992, six junior officers in the Sierra Leone army led a coup which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea with the 25-year-old Strasser as its chairman. After an ally was assassinated, the junta suspended the constitution, banned all political parties, limited freedom of speech and freedom of the press and enacted a rule-by-decree policy. A failed coup resulted in the execution of seventeen soldiers and several prominent members of the Momoh government. In 1996, after about four years in power, Strasser was arrested and flown into exile to Conakry, Guinea.
Elections gave power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (SLPP) but in May 1997, another coup led by Corporal Tamba Gborie sent President Kabbah into exile and Koroma was installed. He suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations, shut down all private radio stations in the country and invited the RUF to join the new junta government. Within days, Freetown was overwhelmed by the presence of the RUF combatants who came to the city in thousands.
Kabbah’s government and the end of civil war (2002–2014). After 9 months in office, the junta was overthrown by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of president Kabbah was reinstated in February 1998. Twenty-four soldiers were executed.
In October 1999, the United Nations sent peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. Eventually 13,000 were sent but 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage as the peace accord effectively collapsed.
British troops took full military action to finally defeat the rebels and restore order. Elements of the British Army, together with administrators and politicians, remain in Sierra Leone to this day, helping train the armed forces, improve the infrastructure of the country and administer financial and material aid. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time of the British intervention, is regarded as a hero by the people of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans have been described as “The World’s Most Resilient People”.
Between 1991 and 2001, about 50,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone’s civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes and many became refugees in Guinea and Liberia. By January 2002, the war was declared over. 1,270 primary schools were destroyed in the War. In May 2002, Kabbah was re-elected president by a landslide. By 2004, the disarmament process was complete. Also in 2004, a UN-backed war crimes court began holding trials of senior leaders from both sides of the war. In December 2005, UN peacekeeping forces pulled out of Sierra Leone.
Elections in 2007 brought Ernest Bai Koroma (APC), was elected president and he was re-elected 2012.
In 2014 an Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone began, which had widespread impact on the country. By the end of 2014 there were nearly 3000 deaths and 10 thousand cases of the disease in Sierra Leone as part of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.
Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, lying mostly between latitudes 7° and 10°N (a small area is south of 7°), and longitudes 10° and 14°W. The country is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. From an approximate 100km coastal belt of low-lying land, the country rises to a mountain plateau near the eastern frontier 1200m to 2000m high with a rich timber forest region.
The peninsula, on which the capital and main commercial centre of Freetown stands, is 40km long and 17km wide with a mountainous interior.
The country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone the plateau is interspersed with high mountains, where Mount Bintumani reaches 1,948 m (6,391 ft), the highest point in the country.
The centre of the country is lowland plains with forests, bush and farmland (43% of land area). The northis part of the Guinean forest-savanna, while the south is rain-forested plains and farmland.
In the west are 400 km (249 mi) of Atlantic coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. The coast has areas of low-lying Guinean mangroves swamp. The national capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbour, the world’s third largest natural harbour.
Climate. Tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert and the night-time temperature can be as low as 16 °C. The average temperature is 26 °C (78.8 °F) and varies from around 26 to 36 °C during the year.
Environment. Human activities claimed to be responsible or contributing to land degradation in Sierra Leone include unsustainable agricultural land use, poor soil and water management practices, deforestation, removal of natural vegetation, fuelwood consumption and to a lesser extent overgrazing and urbanisation.
Deforestation, both for commercial timber and to make room for agriculture, is the major concern and represents an enormous loss of natural economic wealth to the nation. Mining and slash and burn for land conversion – such as cattle grazing – dramatically diminished forested land since the 1980s. It is listed among countries of concern for emissions, as having Low Forest Cover with High Rates of Deforestation.
Heavy logging continues in the Tama-Tonkoli Forest Reserve in the north. Loggers have extended their operations to Nimini, Kono District, Eastern Province; Jui, Western Rural District, Western Area; Loma Mountains National Park, Koinadougu, Northern Province; and with plans to start operations in the Kambui Forest reserve in the Kenema District, Eastern Province.
Habitat degradation for the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, has been increased, such that this canid is deemed to have been extirpated in Sierra Leone.
Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system because of the civil war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. Deforestation rates have increased 7.3% since the end of the civil war. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants, 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.
The number of illegal fishing vessels in Sierra Leone’s waters has multiplied in recent years – significantly depleting fish stocks, depriving local fishing communities of an important resource for survival. The situation is particularly serious as fishing provides the only source of income for many communities in a country still recovering from over a decade of civil war.
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The president is elected by popular vote to a maximum of two five-year terms. To be elected president of Sierra Leone, a candidate must gain at least 55% of the vote. If no candidate gets 55%, there is a second-round runoff between the top two candidates. The current president of Sierra Leone is Ernest Bai Koroma, first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2012.
Parliament is unicameral, with 124 seats. The All People’s Congress (APC) currently has 70 of the 112 seats
Judiciary. The president appoints and parliament approves Justices for the three courts.
Foreign relations with China, Libya, Iran, and Cuba and good relations with the West, including the United States, and has maintained historical ties with the United Kingdom and other former British colonies through membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. The United Kingdom has played a major role in providing aid to the former colony, together with administrative help and military training since intervening to end the Civil War in 2000.
Military consists of around 15,500 personnel.
By the 1990s economic activity was declining and economic infrastructure had become seriously degraded. Over the next decade much of the formal economy was destroyed in the country’s civil war. Since the end of hostilities in January 2002, massive infusions of outside assistance have helped Sierra Leone begin to recover. Much of the recovery will depend on the success of the government’s efforts to limit corruption by officials, which many feel was the chief cause for the civil war and manage the diamond sector.
There is high unemployment, particularly among the youth and ex-combatants. Authorities have been slow to implement reforms in the civil service, and the pace of the privatisation programme is also slackening and donors have urged its advancement.
Percentage of GDP by sector (2007). Agriculture 58.5, Other services 10.4, Trade and tourism 9.5, Wholesale and retail trade 9.0, Mining and quarrying 4.5, Government Services 4.0, Manufacturing and handicrafts 2.0, Construction 1.7, Electricity and water 0.4.
Agriculture. Two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s population are directly involved in subsistence agriculture and 80% in the whole sector. Agriculture accounted for 58 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007. Rice is the most important staple crop with 85 percent of farmers cultivating rice during the rainy season and an annual consumption of 76 kg per person.
Mining. Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially gem-quality diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top ten diamond producing nations. Mineral exports remain the main currency earner. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export.
Sierra Leone is known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to diamond conglomerates during the civil war, to buy the weapons that fuelled its atrocities. In the 1970s and early 1980s, economic growth rate slowed because of a decline in the mining sector and increasing corruption among government officials. Annual diamond production ranges between US$250 million–$300 million. Some of that is smuggled, where it is possibly used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. Formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil ward. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund (DACDF), which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities’ stake in the legal diamond trade.
Sierra Leone has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings.
Transport infrastructure There are 11,300 kilometres of highways in Sierra Leone, of which 904 km (562 mi) are paved (about 8% of the roads). Sierra Leone highways are linked to Conakry, Guinea, and Monrovia, Liberia.
Sierra Leone has the largest natural harbour on the African continent, allowing international shipping. There are 800 km (497 mi) of waterways of which 600 km (373 mi) are navigable year-round. Major port cities are Bonthe, Freetown, Sherbro Island and Pepel.
There are ten regional airports in Sierra Leone, and one international airport. The Lungi International Airport located in the coastal town of Lungi in Northern Sierra Leone is the primary airport for domestic and international travel to or from Sierra Leone. Passengers cross the river to Freetown by hovercraft, ferry or a helicopter. The other airports have unpaved runways.
Sierra Leone appears on the EU list of prohibited countries with regard to the certification of airlines. This means that no airline registered in Sierra Leone may operate services of any kind within the European Union. This is due to substandard safety standards.
In 2013 Sierra Leone has an officially projected population of 6,190,280 and a growth rate of 2.216% a year. The country’s population is mostly young, with an estimated 41.7% under 15, and rural, with an estimated 62% of people living outside the cities. As a result of migration to cities, the population is becoming more urban with an estimated rate of urbanisation growth of 2.9% a year.
Population density varies greatly. The Western Area Urban District, including Freetown, the capital and largest city, has a population density of 1,224 persons per square km. The largest district geographically, Koinadugu, has a much lower density of 21.4 persons per square km.
Language. English is the official language, spoken at schools, government administration and in the media. Krio (derived from English and several indigenous African languages) is spoken language in virtually all parts of Sierra Leone and by 90% of the country’s population, it unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. Krio is not a pidgin. It is a creole, which means it is a full fledged language with regular grammar and set writing conventions. While Krio vocabulary is predominantly from English, it is not intelligible to your average English speaker—although you might be able to follow a little bit if you know some basic vocabulary, when you already know what people are talking about. In the provinces, Mende is the principal vernacular in the south and Temne is the principal vernacular in the north; regular Krio use is mostly limited to provincial cities.
Refugees. Sierra Leone had 8,700 refugees and asylum seekers (most Liberian) at the end of 2007. Nearly 20,000 Liberian refugees voluntarily returned to Liberia over the course of 2007.
Religion. Islam 71.3%. Vast majority are Sunni. Significant portions of Sierra Leonean Muslims are Ahmadi, non-denominational Muslims; and a small numbers are Shia. Most of the Islamic madrassa schools of thought are Sunni. The largest mosque in Sierra Leone is the Freetown Central Mosque.
Christianity 26.8%. The majority are Protestant, of which the largest are Wesleyan-Methodists. Other Christian Protestant denominations with significant presence in the country include Presbyterian, Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Anglicans, Lutheran, and Pentecostals.
Catholics are 8% and 26 percent of the Christian population. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are the two most prominent non Trinitarian Christians.
Traditional African religion 1.9%
Sierra Leone is officially a secular state. The constitution of Sierra Leone provides for freedom of religion and generally protects this right and does not tolerate its abuse. The Sierra Leone Government is constitutionally forbidden to establish a state religion. Sierra Leone is one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully in Sierra Leone. Religious violence is very rare in the country.
The Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Maulid-un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) are observed as national holidays; the Christian holidays of Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday and Easter are also national holidays.
Ethnic groups. Sierra Leone is home to about sixteen ethnic groups, each with its own language. The largest and most influential Temne 35%, predominate in the Northern Sierra Leone and the areas around the capital. The vast majority of Temne are Muslims; and with a small Christian minority. Majority of the Temne support the All People’s Congress (APC).
Mende 31%. of Sierra Leone, predominate in South-Eastern (with the exception of Kono District). Muslim majority, though with a large Christian minority. The vast majority of the Mende support the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Sierra Leone’s current president Ernest Bai Koroma is the first ethnic Temne to be elected to the office.
Limba 8% Found in Northern Sierra Leone, particularly in Bombali, Kambia and Koinadugu District. The Limba are about equally divided between Muslims and Christians. Close political allies of the neighbouring Temne. Since Independence, the Limba have traditionally been very influential. The vast majority support the All People’s Congress (APC). Sierra Leone’s first and second presidents, Siaka Stevens and Joseph Saidu Momoh, were both ethnic Limba.
Fula 7% Descendants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Fulani migrant settlers from the Fouta Djalon region of Guinea, they live primarily in the northeast and the western area of Sierra Leone. The Fula are virtually all Muslims. The Fula are primarily traders, and many live in middle-class homes. Because of their trading, the Fulas are found in nearly all parts of the country.
Mandingo (Mandinka). They are descendants of traders from Guinea who migrated to Sierra Leone during the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Predominantly found in the east and the north. They predominate in the large towns, virtually all are Muslims.
Kono Descendants of migrants from Guinea; today primarily diamond miners. The majority are Christians, though with an influential Muslim minority.
Krio 3%. Descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated African slaves who settled in Freetown between 1787 and about 1885. They primarily occupy the capital city of Freetown and its surrounding Western Area. Krio culture reflects the Western culture and ideals within which many of their ancestors originated – they also had close ties with British officials and colonial administration during years of development. Traditionally dominate Sierra Leone’s judiciacy and Freetown’s elected city council. One of the first ethnic groups to become educated according to Western traditions, they have traditionally been appointed to positions in the civil service, beginning during the colonial years. The vast majority of Krios are Christians, though with a significant Muslim minority.
Kurankod largely Muslims. From Guinea in about 1600 and settled in the north, particularly in Koinadugu District. Primarily farmers; leaders among them have traditionally held several senior positions in the Military.
Loko Muslim in the north
Susu and their related Yalunka are traders in the far north close to the brder with Guinea. Virtually all Muslims.
Kissi live inland in South-Eastern Sierra Leone. Vast majority are Christians.
Kru Largely Christian predominate in the Kroubay neighbourhood in the capital Freetown. The Vai are largely
Sherbro have occupied Sherbro Island since it was founded. Fisherman and farmers. Virtually all Christians, and their paramount chiefs had a history of intermarriage with British colonists and traders.
Lebanese descendants of traders who first came to the nation in the 19th century. Primarily traders and they mostly live in middle-class households in the urban areas, primarily in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni.
Education. Legally required for all children for nine years to junior secondary education, but a shortage of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible. Two thirds of the adult population of the country are illiterate.
The Sierra Leone Civil War resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools, and in 2001, 67% of all school-age children were out of school. The situation has improved considerably since then with primary school enrolment doubling between 2001 and 2005 and the reconstruction of many schools since the end of the war. Primary education is free and compulsory in government-sponsored public schools.
The country has three universities: Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827 (the oldest university in West Africa), University of Makeni. Teacher training colleges and religious seminaries are found in many parts of the country. Israel grants scholarships to Sierra Leone students as part of its international development cooperation program.
Health. The CIA estimated average life expectancy in Sierra Leone was 57.39 years.
HIV/AIDS in the population is 1.6%, higher than the world average of 1% but lower than the average of 6.1% across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Medical care is not readily accessible, with doctors and hospitals out of reach for many villagers. While free health care may be provided in some villages, the medical staff is poorly paid and sometimes charge for their services, taking advantage of the fact that the villagers are not aware of their right to free medical care.
Sierra Leone suffers from epidemic outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera, lassa fever and meningitis. Yellow fever and malaria are endemic.
2014 Ebola outbreak. Ebola is prevalent in Africa where social and economic inequalities are common. The central African countries are the most prevalent of EVD; like Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, and Gabon.
In 2014 there was an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. As of 19 October 2014, there had been 3,706 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, and 1,259 deaths, including that of the leading physician trying to control the outbreak, Sheik Umar Khan. In early August 2014 Guinea closed its borders to Sierra Leone to help contain the spreading of the virus, which originated in Guinea, as more new cases of the disease were being reported in Sierra Leone than in Guinea. Aside from the human cost, the outbreak was severely eroding the economy. By September 2014, with the closure of borders, the cancellation of airline flights, the evacuation of foreign workers and a collapse of cross-border trade, the national deficit of Sierra Leone and other affected countries was widening to the point where the IMF was considering expanding its financial support. On November 7, 2015, the World Health Organization declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The health system in Sierra Leone continues to monitor for new cases and to take precautions to prevent transmission in the country.
Mental health is almost non-existent. Many sufferers try to cure themselves with the help of traditional healers. During the Civil War (1991–2002), many soldiers took part in atrocities and many children were forced to fight. This left them traumatised, with an estimated 400,000 people (by 2009) being mentally ill. Thousands of former child soldiers have fallen into substance abuse as they try to blunt their memories.
Maternal and child health. 5th highest maternal mortality rate in the world. 88% of women in Sierra Leone have undergone female genital mutilation. As of 2014, Sierra Leone was estimated as having the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the world.
Drinking Water limited access. Despite efforts by the government and numerous non-governmental organisations, access has not much improved since the end of the Sierra Leone Civil War in 2002, stagnating at about 50% and even declining in rural areas. It is hoped that a new dam in Orugu, for which China committed financing in 2009, will alleviate water scarcity. In 2006, 84% of the urban population and 32% of the rural population had access to an improved water source. Those with access in rural areas were served almost exclusively by protected wells. The 68% of the rural population without access to an improved water source relied on surface water (50%), unprotected wells (9%) and unprotected springs (9%). Only 20% of the urban population and 1% of the rural population had access to piped drinking water in their home. Compared to the 2000 survey access has increased in urban areas, but has declined in rural areas, possibly because facilities have broken down because of a lack of maintenance.
Polygamy. 37 percent of married women in Sierra Leone were in polygamous marriages in 2008.
Food. Rice is the staple food of Sierra Leone and is consumed at virtually every meal daily. The rice is prepared in numerous ways, and topped with a variety of sauces made from some of Sierra Leone’s favourite toppings, including potato leaves, cassava leaves, crain, okra soup, fried fish and groundnut stew. Often accompanied by stews: may include a delicious and often spicy mix of meat, fish, seasonings, greens, etc., often taking hours to prepare. Seafood is common in Freetown especially Lumley Beach where one can find crabs, lobsters, oysters, snappers and many, many more.
Street food: fruit, vegetables and snacks such as fresh mangoes, oranges, pineapple, fried plantains, avocados, ginger beer, fried potato, fried cassava with pepper sauce; small bags of popcorn or peanuts, bread, roasted corn, or skewers of grilled meat or shrimp.
Poyo is a popular Sierra Leonean drink. It is a sweet, lightly fermented palm wine, and is found in bars in towns and villages across the country. Poyo bars are areas of lively informal debate about politics, football, basketball, entertainment and other issues.
Drink. Star beer and dGuinness extra stout is brewed locally. Many European beers (Carlsberg, Beck’s, Heineken and Cody’s) are imported. Wine is available from restaurants and supermarkets, but can be expensive.
Media. Began with the introduction of the first printing press in Africa at the start of the 19th century. A strong free journalistic tradition developed with the creation of a number of newspapers. In the 1860s, the country became a journalist hub for Africa, with professionals travelling to the country from across the continent. At the end of the 19th century, the industry went into decline, and when radio was introduced in the 1930s, it became the primary communication media in the country.
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) was created by the colonial government in 1934 making it the earliest English language radio broadcaster service in West Africa. The service began broadcasting television in 1963, with coverage extended to all the districts in the country in 1978. In April 2010, the SLBS merged with the United Nations peacekeeping radio station in Sierra Leone to form the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the government-owned current national broadcaster in Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Leone constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and freedom of the press; however, the government maintains strong control of media, and at times restricts these rights in practice. Some subjects are seen as taboo by society and members of the political elite; imprisonment and violence have been used by the political establishment against journalists.
Under legislation enacted in 1980, all newspapers must register with the Ministry of Information and pay sizeable registration fees. The Criminal Libel Law, including Seditious Libel Law of 1965, is used to control what is published in the media. In 2006, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah committed to reforming the laws governing the press and media to create a freer system for journalists to work in. As of 2013 Sierra Leone is ranked 61st (up two slots from 63rd in 2012) out of 179 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index.
Print media is not widely read in Sierra Leone, especially outside Freetown and other major cities, partially due to the low levels of literacy in the country. In 2007 there were 15 daily newspapers in the country, as well as those published weekly. Among newspaper readership, young people are likely to read newspapers weekly and older people daily. The majority of newspapers are privately run and are often critical of the government. The standard of print journalism tends to be low owing to lack of training, and people trust the information published in newspapers less than that found on the radio.
Radio is the most-popular and most-trusted media in Sierra Leone, with 85% of people having access to a radio and 72% of people in the country listening to the radio daily. These levels do vary between areas of the country, with the Western Area having the highest levels and Kailahun the lowest.
The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) ran one of the most popular stations in the country, broadcasting programs in a range of languages. The UN mission were restructured in 2008 and it was decided that the UN Radio would be merged with SLBS to form the new Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). FM relays of BBC World Service (in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni), Radio France Internationale (Freetown only) and Voice of America (Freetown only) are also broadcast.
Outside the capital Freetown and other major cities, television is not watched by a great many people, although Bo, Kenema and Makeni are served by their own relays of the main SLBC service.
Internet access in Sierra Leone has been sparse but is on the increase, especially since the introduction of 3G cellular phone services across the country. There are several main internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the country. Freetown has internet cafes and other businesses offering internet access. Problems experienced with access to the Internet include an intermittent electricity supply and a slow connection speed in the country outside Freetown.
Arts. The arts in Sierra Leone are a mixture of tradition and hybrid African and western styles.
Sports. Football is by far the most popular sport in Sierra Leone. Children, youth and adult are frequently seen playing street football. There are organised youth and adult football tournaments, and primary and secondary schools with football teams. The Sierra Leone National Premier League is the top professional football league with fourteen clubs.
Basketball is not a very popular sport in Sierra Leone.
Since the end of its civil war in 2002, the government, with considerable international assistance, has made modest improvements in the country’s infrastructure which should help the tourism sector: the highway are more often tarred from start to finish and Bumbuna hydroelectric dam supplies electricity when water levels are high enough (both completed in 2009).
While the government sector still suffers from chronic shortage of resources, the private sector is booming. Before the Ebola outbreak, the potential for tourism was vast, but largely unrealised. Tourists were starting to return and tour operators were looking closely at what the country had to offer. Sadly, all that has changed.
Sierra Leone is rich in natural resources. It has some of the best beaches in the world, a rich colonial heritage, and some stunning scenery, but its greatest asset is its welcoming, friendly populace, most of whom will go out of their way to make a foreigner comfortable.
Electricity. 220V. Sockets are British standard. Supplies are unreliable, but improving – parts of Freetown do now get a reasonable supply. The Bumbuna Dam hydro-electric project was operational in 2009, which provides 50MW of electricity to the capital, which is supplemented by 26MW of thermal power generation. Away from Freetown, mains electricity is only available in Bo and Kenema and comes and goes unpredictably.
Freetown — capital city in the western part of the country
Bo — second largest city and capital of the southern region
Bonthe — An old administrative center on Sherbro Island, now quiet and charmingly decayed
Kabala — An isolated town in the northern hills
Kenema — Major town in the eastern part of the country
Koidu — Another town in the east, capital of the diamond mining Kono district
Makeni — Fast developing town in the north
Magburaka — Former capital of the northern region and end of the defunct railway line
Banana Islands — prime tourist spot in Sierra Leone with the idyllic environment of pristine tropical islands
Air. The international airport is at Lungi, the other side of the estuary from Freetown. To get to the airport: 1. “Water taxis,” small yacht-like boats that cost around $40, offer free bus connections from the airport terminal, and serve various destinations in Freetown, including Aberdeen, Murray Town, and Kissy. 2. Three often-overloaded car ferries run to the southern tip of Lungi crossing in 45-70 minutes, but can take several hours including waiting/loading times. 3. Speedboats (US$1.25) and 4. larger, slower “pampa” boats (USD0.50) are by far the most affordable and safest, option. By road it is 5+ hours to the city, via Port Loko using some poor roads. This would probably be the most miserable route, and it’s not clear that anyone uses it.
British Airways – three direct flights per week to London Heathrow.
Air France – Paris (via Conakry).
Brussels Airlines flies to Brussels.
McPhillips Travel have two direct flights from London Gatwick per week.
Flights to Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Casablanca (Royal Air Maroc), Accra (ASKY Airlines, Fly540 Ghana, Kenya Airways), Lagos (Arik Air), Banjul (Arik Air, ASKY Airlines, Gambia Bird), Conakry (ASKY Airlines), Monrovia (Royal Air Maroc) and Bamako (ASKY Airlines) are available.
Unfortunately, thefts from hold baggage are very common at the airport, especially on the way out of the country. Carry anything of value in your cabin luggage. Luggage is searched with trained dogs on the way in and out, so do not carry any drugs or other illegal substances.
Car. Currently Sierra Leone can be accessed by road from Guinea(Conakry) and Liberia. Special permits are required if transiting the border with a private vehicle.
Private taxis, buses and trucks commute daily to and from Conakry/Freetown. Those are mostly loaded with Sierra-Leonese traders carrying money to Conakry and bringing back merchandise and are a big target for extortion by the various officials along the way, especially on the Guinean side. You may get stopped 8 or 10 times on the way and you might be a good target as well (depending on your citizenship, skin color, ability to handle the requests). Be ready, polite and careful…
From Guinea, bush taxis leave from Conakry to the border at Pamelap where further bush taxis can be taken to Freetown, Makeni, and other cities. Bush taxis from Kindia also go to the border at Médina Oula but transport on the Sierra Leonean side is rare and you will probably have to take a motorbike taxi to Kamakwie.
To Liberia, Land Cruiser shared taxis leave early in the morning from Bo and Kenema and take a day to arrive at the border post at Bo (Waterside). The ride is bumpy and passengers are crammed in tightly but there are regular stops to stretch your legs. From Bo (Waterside) shared taxis take around two hours to get to Monrovia.
Boat. Sierra Leone has the 3rd largest natural harbour in the world and is looking forward to the arrival of cruise ships.
Car. The road network fell into disrepair during the civil war. However, recently, there has been a substantial reconstruction programme which means the main roads to regional cities such as Bo, Kenema and Makeni are in excellent condition.
The roads in Freetown are difficult to characterize. In the center, the main roads are mostly smooth and pothole-free, having been constructed from high-quality asphalt a long time ago. Side streets are often a mixture of dirt and gravel, sometimes with large protruding stones, deep crevasses, and other potential dangers. Most main feeder roads in the Western part of Freetown are in atrocious condition, but work is under way to reconstruct them in 2012. When walking, always keep your eyes in front of you: most of the sidewalks in Freetown have “death traps,” missing blocks of cement that could lead to a nasty fall into an open gutter. For this reason, most Freetown residents choose to walk in the street and avoid sidewalks, a major contributing factor to the city’s congestion.
Poda-poda. Minibuses that seem to be stitched together with thread, five people for each row of three seats, blaring hip hop turning off and on with application of the gas pedal, never sure whose sweat that is, never sure whether it will make the next hill. They are really cheap, though. Intercity trips cost less than bush taxis
Shared taxis are marginally more comfortable, but still packed to the gills, and only slightly more expensive. Delays, flat tyres and breakdowns are fairly common so leave lots of time especially if you have a flight to catch.
Boat. Charter speedboats for airport transfers, take you up and down the coast or up the Sierra Leone River. Day trip to the Banana Islands, Bonthe Island, Turtle Islands, or even just some random stretch of long-lost beach.
Motorbike. Moto-taxi is a very efficient way of getting around, with low prices, decent mobility on bad roads, and the ability to skirt past traffic. But they are dangerous. And when traveling on dirt roads, you will wind up covered in dust, often choking on the stuff kicked up by larger vehicles. The driver is required to wear a helmet and to have one to offer to the passenger. Yeah, right. It’s also against the law nowadays to have more than two people on one motorcycle.
Buying your own motorcycle is probably the ideal mode of independent travel. Even the worst roads will be passable in dry season, and you won’t have to worry about being transported by careless drivers. Be aware that driving your bike inside the major cities is dangerous due to the crazy traffic, but outside the cities you should be OK as long as you wear a helmet with a visor to protect yourself from dust.
The beaches of the Freetown peninsula are spectacular, and on an average day, deserted. There are at least ten that could be described as world-class.
Banana Island is easily accessible and offers unsurpassed natural beauty, history, underwater and water activities and vast range of accommodation options.
Bonthe Town, on Sherbro Island, is a former British Colonial Town, with several beautiful stone churches, and a rich culture.
Tiwai Island (in the middle of a river in SE Sierra Leone) is teeming with rare wildlife.
Rural West African villages: experience hospitality and the tranquility of the bush.
The Turtle Islands, difficult to get to, but idyllic.
Money and daily life. As much as Sierra Leone is a poor country it will surprise you with the high cost of everything. The lack of a good import system and high import duties plus 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) mean that many goods are double the price that one would expect to pay in other countries.
Foreigners often pay up to ten times the price quoted to locals when it comes to goods you find on the street so you might want to bargain and lower the prices as much as you can.
If you are prepared to stay in cheap guest houses (and that means not a safe location with bed bugs in the bed) and travel only by local bus (poda poda) and eat only at street corners (not recommended for your health), you can get by in Freetown on a minimum of around SLL270,000 (about USD65) per day. If you want to eat at a decent restaurant meal every now and then and stay in mid-range accommodation, a more realistic budget is around SLL450,000 (about USD110). If you want to eat and sleep well, you can easily chew through SLL880,000 (about USD220) each day.
There are some hotels/guesthouses in Freetown. Facilities are very limited in other cities, although improvements are being made. Makeni now has at least one good hotel. There are a few nice, very small, resort-style getaways, notably at Banana Island and Bonthe Island.
Overnights in Sierra Leone are quite expensive, and similar to what one might spend in the United States, but with poorer amenities. There are guesthouses to be found in towns of any significant size, usually for USD35-50 for a single room, and will almost always have shared bath/toilet. Average hotels are around USD100-180 for a single room.
The cheapest accommodation in SL is found in the villages—ask for the chief (who should speak some Krio, if not any English), and then request a guest house (“guest house” is the right term in Krio, so you will be understood). There is no formal charge associated with the chief’s hospitality, but you should “pay him respects” in the morning to the tune of about USD6-8, and then expect to be handing out 10,000 leone notes to the guesthouse caretaker, the water-fetcher, and at least one other person for some random reason.
Until March of 2015 there was no single place to view and compare hotels in Sierra Leone. Afrotels now offers the opportunity for guests to view hotels in Sierra Leone, and directly make a reservation via their portal. This is a much needed system that will help guests sort out the current chaotic hotel system in Sierra Leone. Afrotels on its website, states that their guests can review hotels all across Africa, make their selection, and then either pay on the website, or pay directly at the hotel.
LEARN Sierra Leone is an excellent place to pursue independent research. Possible areas of study are African music, dance, history, politics, as well as zoology, botany, traditional medicine. Krio teachers are easy to find. Unfortunately, the idea of advertising private drum and dance lessons hasn’t caught on like it has in other West African countries like Ghana and Senegal, but the possibility exists for those willing to search for a qualified instructor.
It’s unlikely you’d want to come to Sierra Leone to study at Fourah Bay College or Njala University. These institutions are famous for corrupt practices such as awarding good grades in exchange for monetary payment or sexual favours, and the facilities are generally poor. Most Sierra Leoneans with the financial means aspire to attend university abroad.
WORK Many British and American citizens, as well as other Europeans, find short-term volunteer work with international or local NGOs. Finding paid work can be more challenging, but not impossible, especially if you are trained in a field that is lacking qualified locals. Be aware that you may have to pay for an annual work permit, which costs USD1000.
Despite the horrific violence of the 90s, Sierra Leone is now very safe country to visit. While petty pick-pocketing, bag-snatching, and other non-violent crimes are a problem in parts of Freetown (and the police are non-responsive), violent crime is extremely rare throughout the country by any international standards, even in the capital.
They are many scams revolving around gold or diamond targeting foreigners which have proven very successful, stay away from anyone claiming to be a mine owner or manager.
Corruption is less of a problem than it once was, but is still pretty common. There is now an active Sierra-Leone anti-corruption agency, to which you can easily report any bribe request by phone, email, website or in person and it will be taken seriously.
The usual dangers found in undeveloped sub-Saharan Africa, though, are present: traffic and disease. Traffic accidents are far less common than they have any right to be, but be aware that the overcrowded, barely hanging together poda-podas are physics-defying death-traps. Similarly, moto-taxis love speed, with total disregard to the lurking dangers of broken roads, gaping potholes, charging trucks lurking in the dust. There have been a small number of very serious crashes involving buses in remote areas. Walking around the cities at night is hazardous not so much for fear of crime, but rather because the lack of lighting can cause a fall, or a driver might not see you in the road. Locals carry cell phones that have flash-lights, if yours does not, always bring a torch.
The dangers associated with tropical disease are basically neither more or less than anywhere else in West Africa, but there are no hospitals anywhere close to Western standards. Malaria is the biggest danger, and any foreign visitor travelling without a mosquito net and anti-malarials is risking their life. During the rainy season, cholera is a frequent problem in much of Sierra Leone.
Ebola. On the 7th of November 2015 the World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free of Ebola.
Water-borne diseases, malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. Vaccination against yellow fever is now required and against rabies might be recommended.
HIV/AIDS is prevalent.
Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east. In 2010, it has also spread to the North, resulting in 48 deaths between the start of the year and November. If you have travelled in these regions you should seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria.
Medical facilities are very poor. You should carry basic medical supplies. Drink only bottled water and be aware of what you eat and how well cooked it is.
Phone. Mobile use is widespread. The format for dialling is: +232-##-######, where the first “##” designates the area code. Like other countries, when dialling locally, “00” is used to access an international number (and followed by the country code) and “0” is used to access a national number (followed by the area code). The major cities and industrial areas enjoy good coverage as well as some major national roads. Airtel is the oldest and has the best nationwide coverage. International roaming is available. International calling is relatively cheap. Allows an Airtel SIM card from another country to be used in Sierra Leone. Incoming calls are free to receive and local calls are charged at local rates. Remember that calls to the SIM cards home country will be charged at international rates.
Sierra Leone now uses 112 for emergency calls from any phone network. Calls are free and will be directed to the relevant emergency service.
Internet. Internet access has improved immeasurably since the activation of the ACE submarine cable in 2013. The major hotels in Freetown usually have wireless networks. All the Internet Service Providers have installed wireless networks that cover Freetown, but the provincial towns are underserved and mostly rely on VSAT satellite services.