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Aid distributions underway for Sierra Leone victims

Concern has begun distributions for communities affected by landslides and floods that hit Sierra Leone’s capital on August 14

Photos taken during a needs assessment in Regent, Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Credit: Concern Worldwide

Distributions have begun after heavy rains and mud stormed down the sides of Freetown’s mountains. The August 14 disaster killed nearly 500, and displaced several thousand people. Approximately 600 people are still unaccounted for.

Coping with disaster

The Regent area of the city suffered the most damage when a section of the Sugarloaf Mountain collapsed, but other areas of Freetown have also been struggling with the effects of the continuous rains. Water spilled over trash-filled drainage canals, flooding the surrounding  neighborhoods.

Concern has distributed hygiene kits to 100 families living in Freetown’s Culvert community, which was affected by floods that contaminated water sources and filled homes with dirty water.

“The people were badly impacted,” says Anne Bauby, Concern’s WASH Program Manager for Sierra Leone. “The flooding destroyed homes and washed away all of people’s belongings.”

People caught in dangerous flooding during a needs assessment of Regent, in Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Credit: Concern Worldwide

Preventing disease

Culvert is a deprived community in the eastern section of Freetown. The neighborhood is crowded with shacks and small homes made from scrap metal and other materials. After floodwaters swept through the area, there were fears that disease would follow.

“Right now, Culvert doesn’t have good sources of clean water,” explains Bauby. “People are still using contaminated wells, or they collect the rainwater that pools on top of their roofs.”

Thanks to heavy rains and poor sanitation, Culvert was a “hotspot” during the cholera outbreak that struck Freetown in 2012. The epidemic infected more than 19,000 people and killed some 300. Many fear that once again, history could repeat itself.

Until water sources are rehabilitated, the hygiene kits are critical to preventing the rapid spread of disease. Anne says that the kits, which include buckets, aquatabs, bleach, and soap, will give people a safe way to fetch and store water, and treat it at home.

Photos taken during a needs assessment in Regent, Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Credit: Concern Worldwide

Concern’s response

Concern is also providing clean water to communities in need, water trucking thousands of litres of water daily to the affected  neighborhoods of Kamayama and Kaningo. These communities are also receiving hygiene kits to replace some of the items many families lost. But water trucking isn’t sustainable in the long term. Concern is building eight water towers that will provide these communities consistent access to clean water.