The internal armed conflict in Sierra Leone dates from March 1991 when fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched a war from the east of the country from across the Liberian border to overthrow the government. The war was declared over in January of 2002 with the disarming of more than 55,000 combatants, including 7,000 child soldiers. Sierra Leone is now a democracy with an elected government.
Children and youth were severely affected by the decade long conflict. They were forcibly conscripted by fighting forces, internally displaced or in neighboring countries as refugees and were deprived of educational opportunities and basic health care. They were subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse, and were also used as forced labor in the extraction of natural resources. Some of these problems persist, while new challenges, such as the upsurge of street children have risen.
The poverty rate in Sierra Leone is alarming. Very few families can afford one balanced meal a day. As a result, child malnutrition and undernourishment are prevalent. Basic sanitation, basic health programs, and clean water supply are very limited. Sierra Leone is ranked as the second least livable country in the world, with the highest maternal morbidity and infant mortality rates. 25% of all children born die before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases. 1 in 8 mothers die in childbirth due to lack of medical care.
At the end of the war, the Government of Sierra Leone used Grafton Village, an eastern rural community, as a settlement site for 4 groups of people. These people were settled in distinct camps throughout the village: The War-wounded Camp; The Amputee Camp; The Polio Camp; The Internally Displaced People Camp.
Grafton Village has a population of 12,000. Of this number, 58% are school-aged children. Only 37% of school-aged children attend school due to the high cost associated with education. 90% of the children not attending school are involved in some form of child labor to assist in bringing income to their households.
THE Hebron House of Refuge Project consists of:
Joshua International Primary School
Joshua International Secondary School