As thousands recover from the mudslides that swept through Freetown, Sierra Leone, a few unsung heroes of the Ebola crisis have sprung back into action to help the country they love.
When Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone, it spread quickly through the country’s capital, Freetown, killing thousands. Cemeteries and morgues were overwhelmed. The government needed assistance, and Concern was asked to step in and help manage burial teams. When Kingtom cemetery in the west end of Freetown became full, Concern built a new one in Waterloo, located about 20 miles east of Freetown.
Over ten thousand people were buried in Waterloo during the Ebola outbreak. Now it also serves as the final resting place for victims of the mudslides that hit Freetown on August 14, when part of Sugarloaf Mountain collapsed and killed hundreds of people living on the slopes below.
Heavy rains have continued since the mudslides, and now they’re impacting Waterloo cemetery. Freshly dug graves have collapsed and are filling with mud and water. Concern handed over control of the cemetery to local government about a year ago, but after the mudslides we stepped in to assist, building drainage canals around the new graves. In addition, we will be providing headstones for the graves of the mudslide victims — something we also did for thousands that perished during the Ebola outbreak.
To help us with this work, we’ve brought back some of the people who know Waterloo cemetery best: members of the Concern burial teams that served during Ebola. But their return comes with mixed emotions.