Poorest nation on earth needs all the help it can get
By Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya
WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY: SIERRA LEONE NEEDS US
“Everything is gone. We’ve lost everything – our house, everything. The mud came down with the water so fast and my son did not escape. We found him lying in the mud. He was just a boy. They took his body with the others to – I don’t know where. God help Sierra Leone. Why are we cursed? What are we supposed to do now, with nothing?” (Issatu Koroma, from Regent, is among the hundreds of people to have lost relatives and their homes in the mudslide. Both her son and nephew are missing. Monday, 14th August, 2017).
The United Nations’ (UN) World Humanitarian Day is held on August 19 each year. The day honors all humanitarians who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause, and those who have lost their lives in the cause of duty. It aims to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international co-operation. World Humanitarian Day is a day dedicated to humanitarians worldwide, as well as to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities. The day aims to honor humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or injured themselves in the course of their work, and to acknowledge the ongoing work of humanitarian staff around the world. Many communities and organizations try to increase the importance of humanitarians by distributing publicity and information material. Additionally, some try to speak to the press to help spread these key messages of World Humanitarian Day, while other groups organize public events worldwide that feature humanitarian work. For the year 2010 and beyond, it is anticipated that World Humanitarian Day will focus on particular humanitarian themes to help increase public awareness. World Humanitarian Day is a global observance and not a public holiday. (Source: United Nation’s Official Website)
HE MUDSLIDE IN SIERRA LEONE
How It Happened
On August 14, a mudslide killed more than 400 people in the mountain town of Regent on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, sweeping away homes and leaving residents desperate for news of missing family members.
What happened and when
A hillside collapsed on Monday at 6:00am local time (06:00 GMT), causing a mudslide on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. The mudslide occurred after three days of torrential rain. The mudslide and rain overwhelmed Freetown’s drainage system, creating waterways that churned down steep streets across the capital. Mudslides overran several houses killing hundreds of residents, many of whom were trapped inside their homes. Military personnel have been deployed to help rescue those still trapped. According to Sierra Leone’s president, an emergency response Center has been established in Regent.
Where did it happen
The flooding took place in the mountain town of Regent, on the outskirts of Freetown. Located about 16km from the capital, the town of roughly one million people sits between the Atlantic Ocean and a range of hills. Many people in Regent live in informal settlements on steep hillsides. A mudslide triggered by torrential floods is typically considered a natural disaster. The uprooting of trees for construction on the hillside is also known to have made the soil unstable and more vulnerable to collapse. Many have questioned why the government has not done more to tackle the illegal construction of the overcrowded hillsides. In Sierra Leone, storms and torrential downpours are common in August and September. In 2015, floods killed 10 people and left thousands homeless. This year, Sierra Leone has seen 104cm of rain since July 1, which is three times more than expected during the rainy season according to the US National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. Sierra Leone’s meteorological department did not issue a warning to hasten evacuations from danger zones before the torrential rainfall between August 11 to August 14, AFP news agency reported. The country’s officials have warned against unregulated construction on the hillsides.
How many casualties
As of Wednesday, 400 people have died in the flooding, At least 109 children are among those who have been killed. It is estimated that at least 600 people remain missing. The morgue at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital has been so overwhelmed by dead bodies that many of them have been left on the floor for lack of space.
Is it safe now? What is the latest on the ground?
Aid agencies have warned that there is a risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid spreading as more flooding is expected. A local state of emergency has been declared. Satellite images show extensive damage, with hundreds of buildings destroyed. About 3,000 people are estimated to be homeless. The Red Cross is struggling to excavate families buried deep in the mud that engulfed their homes.
What happened next
On Wednesday, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office promised “dignified burials” in the coming days. The first of these took place on Thursday at 3pm local time (15:00 GMT). However, according a local Freetown city council official at least 150 burials took places on Tuesday. A week-long mourning was declared. The International Organization for Migration released $150,000 in emergency funds. The government of Sierra Leone promised relief to thousands of people left homeless, opening an emergency response center in Regent and four registration centers. The UN said it was evaluating humanitarian needs in the country and that “contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea”, according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Turkey, the UK, Israel and the UAE vowed to send aid, including clean water, medicine and blankets. (Source: Al-Jazeera News – http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/sierra-leone-mudslide-170816053741558.html)