Evidence, policy and social protection
Generating evidence to deliver for children
Sierra Leone has a young population, with about 42 per cent of its people aged 0 to 14 years, according to the nation’s 2015 Population and Housing Census. Yet, life for the majority of young people in the country is far from easy – as youth unemployment rates are among the highest in the region, and more than 66 per cent of the nation’s children are considered multidimensionally poor, suffering deprivation when it comes to at least one or more of their basic rights (including nutrition, water, sanitation, health, housing, education and information).
According to the 2018 Child Poverty Report, released in partnership by UNICEF and Statistics Sierra Leone, the highest incidence of severe deprivation was found in the area of housing – with 50 per cent of children living either in a dwelling with mud or sand floors, or in a dwelling with more than five occupants per room.
On average, the study found that rural areas have a higher incidence of child poverty than urban areas, and in Tonkolili and Pujehun districts, the rates are as high as 84.8 and 84.6 per cent, respectively.
The Government of Sierra Leone is committed to working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1.2, which aims, by 2030, to “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions”. In line with this commitment, multidimensional child poverty was also introduced into the localised Sierra Leone SDGs in 2016.
UNICEF contribution to the solution
Too many children in Sierra Leone are living in poverty – with over 66 per cent experiencing deprivation when it comes to at least one or more of their basic rights. In response, UNICEF is committed to reducing child poverty in Sierra Leone, to ensure that more children benefit from an adequate standard of living and are enabled to reach their full potential.
In 2011, the Government of Sierra Leone approved its first ever National Social Protection Policy (NSPP). Two years later, the social protection pillar was included as a priority in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper III (the Agenda for Prosperity) as well as in the national budget – officially recognising the vital role that social protection plays in fostering development across sectors.
Since then, UNICEF Sierra Leone has been supporting the Government in its goal of building an inclusive social protection system that aids the extreme poor and vulnerable populations of the country. In 2014, the first phase of the World Bank / UNICEF-supported Social Safety Net programme was officially launched, targeting the extremely poor population in the country. By 2018, this programme had extended into 9 of the 16 districts and supported approximately 30,000 households – benefiting over 70,000 children. Additionally, in 2016, UNICEF Sierra Leone also organized a regional training on calculating child poverty in Sierra Leone, which resulted in the release of the country’s first Child Poverty Report and the formation of a technical committee to support child poverty.
In February 2017, the Government’s NSPP was also revised to align the country’s social protection policies with disaster response strategies – resulting in a more robust, responsive and comprehensive social protection agenda that fosters resilience to emergencies and provides a more inclusive pathway to development for Sierra Leone.
UNICEF has supported the provision of cash transfers during times of emergency, to aid extremely poor families and children in need. An emergency preparedness and response Plan has also been developed to guide actions during any future emergencies.
Moving forward, UNICEF will work to ensure that more children benefit from quality child-sensitive policies and social protection programmes (which will in turn reduce their vulnerability to multi-dimensional poverty and the impact of economic shocks and disasters) through:
- Supporting Government in monitoring and programming for the reduction of multidimensional child poverty, strengthening social protection systems, enhancing child-friendly budgeting and equity-focused evidence generation and planning
- Providing financial and technical support to national surveys, such as the MICS, to highlight issues of child poverty in support of SDG reporting
- Providing technical assistance to Statistics Sierra Leone to generate quality administrative data collection, especially in health and education sector indicators at the district level
- Building the capacity of the National Social Protection Secretariat, National Commission for Social Action, and district-level agencies on the design, implementation and monitoring of social protection initiatives
- Supporting national and district level coordination of social protection through the Inter-agency forum
- Supporting the National Social Protection Secretariat to review and cost the social protection strategy and enact a bill based on the policy
- Partnering with World Bank and the International Labour Organization to conduct an evaluation of the existing Social Safety Net programme
- Facilitating South-South learning of high-level Government officials and legislature about the implementation of child grants and other child-sensitive social protection interventions