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DSC02328-min © Fanny Mantaux pour Action contre la Faim


Sierra Leone

A worrying food situation in the south

Against this backdrop of economic crisis, Action Against Hunger is taking action in the south of the country, and more specifically in Bonthe district. In collaboration with a local partner, MoPADA – SL (Movement Towards Peace and Development Agency – Sierra Leone) and with the support of Irish Aid, teams are responding to the needs of local communities.

Bonthe district, in the Southern Province, is made up of islands and a mainland bordering the Atlantic Ocean. In an environment dominated by beaches, swamps and marshes, mangroves and scattered patches of bush and forest, Bonthe is Sierra Leone’s least populated district. According to the World Food Program’s latest report on food security in Sierra Leone, households living in rural areas are at greater risk of food insecurity. The report indicates that in the Bonthe district, 4% of children under 5 are acutely malnourished, and over 30% of the population is severely food insecure¹.

A 7-hour drive separates the capital Freetown from Mattru, Jong chiefdom of the Bonthe district, where Action Against Hunger’s office is located. 7 hours of driving, and almost half of it on track roads, the red earth that has just dried out after the rainy season that has just ended.

During the rainy season, which coincides with the lean season (June to September), Bonthe’s inhabitants struggle to make ends meet. Indeed, Bonthe is located in the country’s rainiest zone, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,500 mm. Because of its geographical location and weather conditions, Bonthe is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Heavy rains damage roads, making them impassable and inaccessible to market traders. Crops can also be washed away by floods, drastically depleting household food resources.

This problem of access, combined with the rising price of fuel, has a direct impact on the situation of the inhabitants of this remote area. They suffer from a lack of access to basic services such as health care and drinking water, which increases their food insecurity and undermines their living conditions.


Support for healthcare facilities


From 2014 to 2016, in a context where the country was still recovering from civil war (1991-2002), the Ebola epidemic took a heavy toll on the healthcare system. It increased the population’s distrust of the health authorities and weakened the system’s response. Medical staff have also been hard hit, with 307 infections and 221 deaths. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further weakened the healthcare system and disrupted the country’s economy.

In Bonthe, access to healthcare is limited due to a lack of qualified human resources, financial resources and accessibility. For the past two years, in the chiefdoms of Jong, Kpanda Kemo and Yawbeko, Action Against Hunger, in coordination and collaboration with the Ministry of Health, has been supporting 24 health structures in the detection and management of malnutrition in children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women. To guarantee access to quality nutrition services, this support involves training staff in the management of acute malnutrition and in mental health and hygiene within health facilities, as well as the rehabilitation of sanitary structures (wells, latrines).

Located next to Action Against Hunger’s office, UBC Hospital in Mattru, Jong Chiefdom also has a ‘Baby Friendly Spaces’ area where mothers can receive nutritional support for their children.

DSC02274-min © Fanny Mantaux pour Action contre la Faim

Espace convivial pour les bébés et leurs mères (Baby Friendly Spaces) au sein de l’hôpital de Mattru Jong


“In this dedicated space, mothers can come with their children to listen to advice from care staff, attend cooking demonstrations, enjoy massage sessions for their children and benefit from group discussions to learn good practices in terms of hygiene and care for their children,” explains Samuel Dumbuya, Mental Health Psychosocial Support and Protection Deputy Program Manager at Action Against Hunger in Bonthe.

In order to meet people’s needs as effectively as possible, Action Against Hunger makes it a point of honor to work for and with the district’s communities. This community anchoring is essential and omnipresent in its intervention. This is why Action Against Hunger and its partner MoPADA – SL have set up Mother Support Groups to encourage integrated management of undernutrition at community level.


DSC02226-min © Fanny Mantaux pour Action contre la Faim

Margaret Sandy lors d'une session en groupe avec des mères dans le chef-lieu de Yawbeko


An hour’s drive from Mattru Jong is the chiefdom of Yawbeko. In this small area strewn with houses, Margaret, a charismatic woman and leader of the mothers’ support group, gathers around her some fifteen people, all of whom have come to listen to her invaluable advice.  “The problems of malnutrition are not in the towns but in the villages. With this community-based approach, we want to solve the problem at its roots. With our partner MoPADA, we are working with 96 communities in the district by setting up 120 Mother support groups, always with the aim of responding directly to people’s needs,” explains Samuel.


Boosting local agriculture


Along the way, banana trees, palm trees, a lush green landscape and a few people littering the roadsides as they walk from village to village. How can you imagine for a moment that people could go hungry in an environment with so many resources?

And yet, the latest Harmonized Framework analysis carried out in October 2023² showed that part of the population of the district was in crisis phase (IPC 3).

Most of Bonthe’s inhabitants make their living from fishing and farming, the latter being the backbone of the local economy. The most widespread crops are cassava, rice, oil palm, vegetables, peanuts and sweet potatoes. Small-scale fishing is the second most important income-generating activity, particularly in coastal and river areas.

“Bonthe has a large fishing community. “But, because of the country’s economic situation, the inhabitants of Bonthe cannot afford and eat the good fish catch in the district, business people from neighboring districts such as Bo, Kenema or Freetown come here to buy fish at a better price”, explains Amadu Kamara, field coordinator of Action Against Hunger in Bonthe. “The majority of food grown by the communities is not for their own food consumption,” adds Amadu. “They sell it to pay school fees for their children, for example”.

Action Against Hunger helps maintain and improve household livelihoods by providing access to productive agricultural inputs, tools, seeds, capacity-building and accompaniment. The aim is to enable beneficiaries to grow food during the rainy season, reducing their dependence on the market and increasing their self-sufficiency.

In Mosavie, a small village on the other side of the river from Mattru Jong, Isata Sheriff, Lead mother, accompanies a group of farmers to plant rice and manioc, between two showers.



“It was difficult to get seeds to grow our rice and manioc because we couldn’t afford to buy them. But thanks to Action Against Hunger and MoPADA,, we were able to benefit from these seeds as well as training. We can use these harvests for our own consumption, but also sell them to generate some income”, explains Isata. “It’s very important for me to be a Lead Mother because I can teach my friends, family and sisters the good practices I’ve learned”.

Action Against Hunger will continue to expand its interventions to address the needs identified in Bonthe district.


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