AT Standards and Procurement Guidelines Launch Freetown, 12 April 2023

Global Disability Innovation Hub, Harrison Kamau
May 4, 2023
Sierra Leone

Persons with disabilities face multiple challenges. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide experience significant disabilities, representing 16% of the world's population or 1 in 6 individuals. Additionally, persons with disabilities are at a higher risk of developing various health conditions and may experience premature mortality. 

To address these challenges in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health & Sanitation, with support from Clinton Health Foundation (CHAI) and other technical partners, conducted a landscape assessment of assistive technology (AT) services in Sierra Leone in 2019. The assessment revealed critical gaps in the Assistive Technology (AT) landscape, including the absence of a policy and strategy for AT, which posed challenges for planning and implementing evidence-based AT activities in the country. 

In response, Clinton Health Initiative (CHAI) with funding from UK aid’s AT2030 programme, led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) -, set up a secretariat within the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) to establish a national coordination platform: This led to The Sierra Leone Assistive Technology Country Capacity Assessment (CCA) report which revealed the limited AT structures and systems critical for medical rehabilitation and access to AT in Sierra Leone. 

In response, MoHS established the National Disability, Assistive Technology, and Rehabilitation Technical Working Group (NDATR TWG) to implement recommendations from the capacity assessment. The NDATR TWG led a highly consultative process of developing the first-ever AT Policy and Strategy and a first-ever AT Product List in Sierra Leone, all launched in December 2021. These documents form the basis for implementing Sierra Leone’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Strategic Development Goals (SDG) 2030. 

Building on this work and under the guidance of the TWG, the AT standards and procurement guidelines for assistive products, accessories, spare parts, and related services have been developed and launched. These documents provide a framework for the provision of appropriate AT devices for persons with disabilities, regardless of their age, location, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. 

The AT Product Standards and AT Procurement Guidelines will help ensure that users receive appropriate and affordable AT that suits their needs, daily activities, and lifestyles while satisfying minimum safety, strength, and durability requirements. CHAI is committed to continuing its support for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation with the implementation and design of other life-saving interventions. 


Assistive Technology (AT) is critical for promoting independence and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. However, in low- and middle-income countries, including Sierra Leone, AT is not readily available despite the growing demand.Silvestre Suh Country Director Clinton Health Access Initiative Sierra Leone. 

During the round table discussion held later in the day, participants  of the technical working group highlighted the various market barriers faced by the AT sector in Sierra Leone, including limited access to appropriate, affordable, and quality products, and inadequate demand for these products by users and service providers.  

Despite these strides, access to AT products and services in Sierra Leone is still extremely limited and mainly charity-driven. Therefore, participants in the round table discussion reflected on the journey thus far and discussed key lessons learned to better plan and strategize future interventions. 

During the discussion, participants identified various areas for improvement, including stakeholder coordination, AT policy environment, AT service delivery (availability and access to AT products and services), data systems and integration within the HMIS, human resources for AT service uptake, and local manufacturing, repairs, and maintenance of AT devices. They discussed what has worked well thus far, what could have been done better, and made recommendations for future interventions. 

To improve stakeholder coordination, participants recommended strengthening collaboration among stakeholders, including government ministries, civil society organizations, and the private sector. They also suggested creating a platform for regular engagement and communication among stakeholders to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal. 

Regarding the AT policy environment, participants recommended strengthening implementation and monitoring of the AT Policy and Strategy, as well as ensuring that it is fully aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) 2030. They also suggested improving public awareness and education on the importance of AT. 

To improve AT service delivery, participants recommended expanding the coverage and reach of rehabilitation and AT services, improving the quality of services, and ensuring that services are user-centered and responsive to the needs of people with disabilities. They also suggested exploring innovative approaches to financing and sustainable service delivery. 

Regarding data systems and integration within the HMIS, participants recommended strengthening the capacity of the health system to collect, manage and use data on rehabilitation and AT services. They also suggested establishing an AT database to facilitate tracking and monitoring of the availability and use of AT products and services. 

To improve human resources for AT service uptake, participants recommended strengthening the capacity of healthcare workers to provide rehabilitation and AT services. They also suggested developing training programs for service providers and community health workers on AT service delivery. 

Finally, regarding local manufacturing, repairs, and maintenance of AT devices, participants recommended exploring opportunities to strengthen local production and repair. 

In conclusion, the launch of the Sierra Leone AT Standards and Procurement Guidelines is a significant achievement that will contribute to the betterment of the lives of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone. It is a step towards achieving a conducive ecosystem for the delivery of AT services equitably and sustainably in Sierra Leone.