Programs in Sierra Leone
Education: The IRC works together with the government Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) to support children’s general psychosocial well being through education programming, focusing on meeting the educational needs of marginalized and disaffected children and youth, transforming existing educational systems so that avenues for accessing a range of quality learning opportunities are available to the most marginalized.
Currently the IRC provides educational support to over 9,000 children engaged in or at-risk of becoming engaged in exploitative child labor through holistic interventions. Through this program IRC provides children and youth with educational or skills training opportunities, school materials, uniforms, and tuition vouchers. The program mobilizes and sensitizes communities to child labor and the importance of education for children and the community. To strengthen national and local systems for monitoring and eliminating exploitative child labor and supporting education, the IRC advocates for issues of child labor, children’s rights, promotion of education and skills training in policy.
In a recently launched initiative focused on improving access and quality education for marginalized youth the IRC is supporting rural Junior Secondary Schools in Sierra Leone through the capacity building of local education authorities, school institutions and teachers. To foster the improvement of education quality, IRC supports MEYS officials in the monitoring and supervising schools and supports teacher training. IRC also facilitates teacher training in participatory methodologies, curriculum development, school and classroom management, health education, and financial management, and how to provide appropriate educational and psychosocial support to children and youth withdrawn or prevented from worst forms of child labor.
Finally, the IRC supports 125 Sierra Leonean primary school teachers enrolled in a rigorous distance learning program which is enabling them to work towards obtaining teaching certificates. The IRC is also working on the development of a distance education teacher training curriculum for Junior Secondary School teachers.
Health: Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest and a third of all infants do not live to see the age of five. The IRC works to increase child and maternal survival rates by training public health staff and traditional birth assistants and clinic aides on basic reproductive health care, and working with health staff to improve services for common childhood illnesses, safe motherhood and immunizations.
In order to build a sustainable health care system and slowly phase full responsibility for health care delivery over to local structures, IRC strives to build the capacity of clinic staff, the District Health Management Teams and communities themselves to address local health needs. In Kenema district, IRC works closely with the District Health Management Team to improve management practices within drug supply and distribution, health information systems and financial and administrative practices.
In an effort to prevent disease and reduce the country’s high child mortality rate, IRC conducts outreach programs to promote reproductive health, disease prevention, feeding and weaning and HIV/AIDS prevention.
IRC also undertook a major Lassa fever prevention campaign in all eight refugee camps, and surrounding host communities aimed at eradicating this potentially deadly hemorrhagic disease, which is spread by rats. The project successfully controlled of the incidence of Lassa fever per camp per month to below the target level, and documented improvements in hygiene behavior of the refugee and host community populations. Currently, project activities encompass hygiene promotion, surveillance, outbreak investigation and response activities in host communities where the remaining refugees are living and the strengthening institutional capacity of the District Health Management Team and other partners to run similar projects.
Gender based violence prevention and response: The gender-based violence (GBV) program started in 1999 and has evolved into a vital program assisting thousands of survivors of gender-based violence across the country. IRC works closely with local communities to raise awareness about GBV, in order to facilitate a change in attitudes and behavior that condone and perpetuate gender-based violence. Local women’s and men’s action groups are empowered to actively engage in prevention activities and to provide support and referral services to survivors. At the national level IRC advocates for policy reform addressing gender-based violence.
IRC operates three Sexual Assault Referral Centers in Freetown, Kenema and Kono, where survivors of sexual assault can access free comprehensive counseling, medical care, follow-up support and legal support services. IRC is currently working towards embedding the sexual assault referral centers within government structures, and encouraging the government of Sierra Leone to gradually roll out sexual assault response services across the country. With Parliament’s passage of the Gender Bills, IRC is now working with the grassroots organizations involved in drafting the bills to facilitate roll-out and implementation.
Governance: Working in collaboration with Management Systems International, Christian Children’s Fund and World Vision, IRC is working on an initiative in Kailahun aiming to build broader community based political participation and facilitate community participation in national dialogue. IRC organizes regular forums and meetings where communities can discuss local issues among themselves and with their elected councilors. Communities are working to develop community action plans, thereby receiving hands-on experience in social and political mobilization and organization. Local community groups and elected leaders are also receiving training to build their capacity to engage in national dialogue.