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Fighting COVID-19 in Freetown, Sierra Leone: the critical role of community organisations in a growing pandemic

Published in Open Health, Vol 1, Iss 1 

By Emmanuel Osuteye, Braima Koroma, Joseph Mustapha Macarthy, Sulaiman Foday Kamara, and Abu Conteh


As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads in Africa, attention is increasingly shifting to the potential and ongoing impact on informal settlements, which face considerable challenges around the implementation of conventional control measures of social distancing, hand washing and self-isolation. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, residents of informal settlements have relied on local community organisations and groups, and their resourcefulness to provide essential preparedness, response and on-going support to alleviate the public health and economic risks associated with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. This is also premised on lessons drawn from dealing with previous epidemics, notably the Ebola virus disease in 2014–2015.

This paper will explain the nature and form of community organisation that can be galvanised and leveraged for COVID-19 preparedness and responses that are suited for informal settlements. Secondly, it highlights the critical contribution of community organisations in social protection measures that tackle deeply entrenched inequalities in rapidly urbanising contexts. Finally, the cases examined seek to provide evidence of the value of processes of continuous learning within community organisation that are essential for both humanitarian assistance and emergency management. Although situated in Freetown, the broad lessons drawn are relevant for urban-poor communities and informal settlements in many urban African centres.

Suggested citations:  Osuteye, E., Koroma, B., Macarthy, J. M., Kamara, S. F., & Conteh, A. (2020). Fighting COVID-19 in Freetown, Sierra Leone: the critical role of community organisations in a growing pandemic, Open Health, 1(1), 51-63.


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