Sierra Leone is divided into the Western Area (the former colony) and the Northern, Eastern, and Southern provinces (formerly the protectorate). The three provinces are divided into a total of 12 districts with 148 chiefdoms. Local government in the Western Area is administered by municipalities. Rural areas are governed by village committees, which send members to district councils, which in turn are represented in a rural area council.
Each province has a resident minister as administrative head. Local units within the provinces are, in ascending order of importance, villages, extended villages or sections, chiefdoms, and district councils. The 12 district councils, which contain elected members as well as paramount chiefs, are responsible for primary education, health centers, agricultural extension work, social welfare, community development, and transportation services (roads, bridges, and ferries). The war incapacitated local government by severely disrupting social institutions, and uprooting some two million refugees and internally displaced persons.