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Country Profile

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a developing country in western Africa still recovering from a ten-year civil war that ended in 2002. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based language, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are rudimentary or nonexistent. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Sierra Leone for additional information.

Sierra Leone


Image of Sierra Leone
Country Name: Sierra Leone
Continent: Africa
Capital City: Freetown
Boundary Countries: Guinea, Liberia
Recommended Hospitals in Capital: None at this time
Main Cities: Freetown, Pepel, Bo, Bonthe, Lungi, Lunsar, Kabala, Koidu, Kenema, Momaligi, Shenge, Makeni, Kailahun
Country Size: 71,740 sq km
Population: 6,294,774



English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

Currency: Sierra Leonean Leone (SLL)
Predominant Religions:

Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs 30%

National Holidays: Independence Day, 27 April (1961)
Economic Status:

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. A recent increase in political stability has led to a revival of economic activity such as the rehabilitation of bauxite and rutile mining.


Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF): Army (includes Navy (Maritime Wing), Air Wing)

US Presence:

Americans living or traveling in Sierra Leone are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Sierra Leone.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located at Leicester Square, Regent; tel. (232) (22) 515 000 or (232) (76) 515 000; fax (232) (22) 515 355.  The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at http://freetown.usembassy.gov/.

Document Requirements:

A passport and visa are required.  Visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain visas in advance of travel to Sierra Leone.  Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to show International Certificates of Vaccination (yellow card) upon arrival at the airport with a record of vaccination against yellow fever.  The Embassy of Sierra Leone is located at 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 939-9261.  Information may also be obtained from the Sierra Leonean Mission to the United Nations, 245 East 49th St., New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 688-1656; and from the website of the Sierra Leonean High Commission in London.  Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Sierra Leonean embassy or consulate.  Visit the Embassy of Sierra Leone’s website  for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.

Major Airports:

Airports: 10, Airports w/paved runways: 1

Freetown-Lunghi International Airport (FNA/GFLL)
Freetown Airport, Sierra Leone, c/o Sierra Leone Airports Authority, 24 Rawden Street, Freetown, SIERRA LEONE
Tel: +232 (0)22 228133
Website: www.lungi-int-airport.com
Customs, hours: 24 hours
Tel: +232 (0)22 025238, +232 (0)22 025335

Servicing Airlines:
Risks and Precautions:

Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the end of the civil war in 2002. The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) withdrew in December 2005 and Sierra Leone resumed responsibilities for its own security. The Sierra Leonean police are working to improve their professionalism and capabilities, but fall short of American standards in response time, communications, and specialty skills.
Areas outside Freetown lack most basic services. Embassy employees are free to travel throughout Sierra Leone. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, however, especially when traveling beyond the capital. Road conditions are hazardous and serious vehicle accidents are common. Emergency response to vehicular and other accidents ranges from slow to nonexistent.
There are occasional unauthorized, possibly armed, roadblocks outside Freetown, where travelers might be asked to pay a small amount of money to the personnel manning the roadblock. Because many Sierra Leoneans do not speak English, especially outside of Freetown, it can be difficult for foreigners to communicate their identity. Public demonstrations are rare but can turn violent. U.S. citizens should are advised to avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
CRIME: Entrenched poverty in Sierra Leone has led to criminality. Visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed mugging, assault and burglary. Petty crime and pick pocketing of wallets, cell phones, and passports are very common especially on the ferry to and from Lungi International Airport. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all. Police investigative response is often incomplete and don’t provide support to victims. Inefficiency and corruption is a serious problem at all levels within the government of Sierra Leone. Americans traveling to or residing in Sierra Leone should maintain a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings to help avoid becoming the victims of crime.
Upon arrival in Sierra Leone, U.S. citizens are urged to register at the Embassy in Freetown (see Registration/Embassy Location section below) where they may obtain current safety information and advice on minimizing risks.

Mortality Statistics:

Infant MR total:  156.48 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth: TOTAL 40.93 years (male 38.64/female 43.28)

Immunization Indicators:

Required: Yellow Fever upon arrival from all countries

Recommended: Malaria, Hep A & B, Typhoid, Rabies
Boosters: MMR, DPTHIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 280

If you will be visiting a malaria risk area in Sierra Leone, you will need to take one of the following antimalarial drugs: atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine (primaquine in special circumstances and only after G6PD testing).
Note: Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in Sierra Leone and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region.

Infectious Disease Concerns:

Malaria risk area in Sierra Leone: All

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis (river blindness) are other diseases carried by insects that also occur in West Africa. African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness) has increased in Africa (it is epidemic in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan; and highly endemic in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mozambique, Uganda, and Tanzania; low levels are found in most of the other countries), and an increase in travelers has been noted since 2000.  Most had exposures in Tanzania and Kenya, reflecting common tourist routes.  Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, can be contracted in fresh water in this region. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries. (For more information, please see Swimming and Recreational Water Safety.)

Overall Quality of Medical Services:

Quality and comprehensive medical services are very limited in Freetown, and are almost nonexistent for all but most minor treatment outside of the capital. Persons with unstable chronic medical conditions that require on-going medical treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply and due to inadequate diagnostic equipment, lack of medical resources and limited medical specialty personnel, complex diagnosis and treatment are unavailable. The quality of medications in Sierra Leone is inconsistent and counterfeit drugs remain a problem. Local pharmacies are generally unreliable. In the event medications are needed, such as over-the-counter medication, antibiotics, allergy remedies, or malaria prophylaxis, travelers may contact U.S. Embassy Health Unit personnel to receive general information about reliable pharmacies.
Medical facilities in Sierra Leone are scarce and for the most part sub-standard; outside the capital, standards are even lower. There is no ambulance service in Sierra Leone, trauma care is extremely limited, and local hospitals should only be used in the event of an extreme medical emergency. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and the administration of improper drugs have been reported. Life-threatening emergencies often require evacuation by air ambulance at the patient's expense.

Providers in Network:
Direct Payment: 2
Referrals: 5
View Network Providers
Recent Medical Threats/ Concerns/Warnings:

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, can be contracted in fresh water in this region. Do not swim in fresh water in these countries.
Polio outbreaks were reported in several previously polio-free countries in Central, Eastern, and Western Africa beginning in 2003.
Many countries in this region have high incidence rates of tuberculosis and high HIV prevalence rates.

Communications Info:

Country Code:  +232   
Internet Code:  .sl


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