Infant mortality crisis in Sierra Leone

Almost every family in Sierra Leone has lost a child to a treatable illness. This small West African country has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. A study by the government and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) revealed that 1 out of 4 children die before their fifth birthday.

Vaccine preventable diseases are the main cause of death among children in Sierra Leone. But with the majority of the population living on less than $1 US dollar a day, life saving methods of prevention are out of reach. The country's weak infrastructure makes access to information very limited and with adult literacy dismally dipping beneath 30 per cent, many parents are simply unaware of the risks that are claiming the lives of their children.

The landscape of child health care in Sierra Leone would be a very different story if parents had better information and resources. Children are dying from easily treatable illnesses like diarrhoea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition. 48 per cent of children who die under the age of five are losing their lives to measles while 33 per cent die from malaria.

Simple measures would save countless lives. If parents were given the opportunity to learn how to improve nutrition and hygiene for their children, the incidents of these illnesses would greatly decrease.

The health and education programs that were in place in Sierra Leone as late as the 1960's were dismantled by former President Siaka Stevens who ruled Sierra Leone for 17 years. According to the New York Times, he left Sierra Leone in a state of "severe economic crisis at the time of his retirement. There were shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange and the coastal nation of 5 million people had a reputation as a paradise for smugglers."

*The video was shot, edited and voiced by David Shoo who worked with UNICEF in Sierra Leone. Shoo’s documentary won an award of Merit at the recent Accolade Film Festival.