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Sierra Leone: National Social Action Project (NSAP)

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Community Driven Project in Sierra Leone Provides Education for Hearing and Speech Impaired Children
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Restoring Access to Basic Services in a
Post-War Sierra Leone


The National Social Action Project (NSAP) has restored infrastructure and services, and built capacity for collective action in war-affected and poor communities in Sierra Leone. Over 700,000 people have gained access to health facilities, 360,000 children to educational facilities, and over 115,000 people to economic infrastructure such as markets. In addition, over 30,000 people, including unemployed youth, female-headed households and vulnerable rural and urban households are benefitting from an emergency Cash-for-Work program that was introduced as a new component and as a response to food price increases.


Sierra Leone emerged from a 10-year civil war in 2002 with most of its basic infrastructure in ruins, particularly in the rebel-held areas. Following the war, it had the lowest Human Development Index in the world, with 82 percent of its population living below the poverty line, approximately a quarter of its population without access to safe drinking water, only 52 percent of children enrolled in school, and only about 29 percent of the population with access to a health clinic. Sharp food price increases between 2007-2009—including a 125 percent rise in the price of wheat flour and a 60 percent increase in the price of rice—severely threatened the food security of the poor and vulnerable.


The NSAP was designed to provide an immediate and a tangible response to the gaps in basic service availability, with the priority on the areas and populations most affected by the war. Thus, during 2004-2009, about 68 percent of all project activities and resources were targeted to the newly accessible areas (closed off during the war). The project was designed to maximize the capacities of local civil society, communities and local governments in a very low capacity and governance setting through supporting: (i) community-led infrastructure and basic service subprojects; (ii) employment generating public works; and (iii) capacity building at the community level (communities and local governments). The decentralized network of the National Commission for Social Action (NACSA) proved tremendously effective in interacting with local stakeholders and assisting communities to implement subprojects. As an autonomous institution, NACSA was also able to navigate the complex political environment in targeting of the resources and manage program finances in a transparent manner, which was unprecedented. The project also provided communities with an opportunity to be part of the development process, and promoted reconciliation through collective action.


The NSAP achieved the following results:

  • Over 700,000 people gained access to improved health and sanitation facilities, and 148 health facilities were renovated and equipped between 2004-2009;
  • Over 360,000 children gained access to basic education, as a result of building or rehabilitating over 920 classrooms between 2004-2009;
  • Creation of temporary employment for more than 30,000 people between late 2008 and 2010 through the Cash-for-Work subcomponent;
  • Construction, rehabilitation, or maintenance of 679 kilometers of roads during late 2008 and 2010.

Bank Contribution

IDA provided US$35 million equivalent in financing. Under the Global Food Crisis Response Program, the project received additional financial supportof US$8 million in 2008 and 2009 to support the Cash-for-Work program in the wake of the food and financial crises.


There is a close collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP) in the implementation of the Cash-for-Work sub-component of the operation, which builds on the lessons from experience of WFP and other donor programs. In this context, the existing analytical work of the WFP on shocks and vulnerability is used as a basis for targeting resources geographically according to food insecurity.

Moving Forward

The lessons learned from the project, in particular the experiences working with communities, have been carried forward into the design of a flagship program, the “Decentralized Service Delivery Program,” approved by IDA in September 2009. In addition, NACSA, the implementing institution, was given the mandate to lead the social protection agenda in Sierra Leone. With support from IDA (Youth Employment Support Project approved in June 2010), NACSA has launched a labor-intensive public works program—the first large intervention of its kind, which has been expanded nationwide. The NSAP experience in working with communities and local institutions was taken into consideration in the design and launch of the Cash-for-Work component of this new operation.


The Beneficiary Assessment found that the project was successful in driving significant increases in access to services for beneficiaries, and mitigating risks of renewed conflict at the level of communities. A sample survey of the Cash-for-Work component revealed that (i) cash payments were timely for beneficiaries; and (ii) income earned by beneficiaries was spent on food (47 percent), school fees (23 percent), basic needs (13 percent), health expenses (12 percent), and small business start-up (10 percent). A more comprehensive impact evaluation is underway to collect information on beneficiary livelihoods.

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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