Sierra Leone Flood survivors stuck in temporary shelters

17 December 2017

The two camps in the west of the capital should have been closed down in mid-November. That was the government’s plan – to first provide temporary accommodation for the survivors and then more permanent housing solutions.

Following the intensive flash floods and the mudslide on August 14, three private construction companies stepped in to assist the government of Sierra Leone, in its provision of permanent and safe housing for the survivors.

Over 50 houses and an orphanage are in their final stages of completion in Mile Six, a neighbourhood in the eastern part of Freetown.

At the same time, the government are giving survivors 300 US dollars (254 euros) per household, to pay for the rent in their new homes.

The recipients are required to sign a consent form, that binds them to vacate the camps and refrain from making further claims for damages in the future.

While some have taken up the government’s offer, others have refused to agree to the conditions.

Philomena Isatu Turay works for Sierra Leone’s Office of National Security. As the camp manager of one of the camps situated in a neighborhood called Juba, she knows what some of the survivors had hoped for. “Some were looking forward to owning a house,” she explained, not renting. “That’s why some of them refuse to sign the consent form.”

According to Turay, the affected persons do have the possibility of buying the new houses, but for the cash-strapped flood survivors the costs are often too high.

“These houses are meant for them, but they are for mortgage. You know, there’s no way you can get a house, even outside Sierra Leone without paying for those houses,” said Turay. “But it is a soft loan. So if you are in a position to get the house on mortgage, then we’ll give you the house.”

For some camp residents like Kadiatu Marah, the government aid is all that they have. “My husband died in the mudslide. He left me with two children, one in form two [of secondary school] and the other in form three. At the moment, none of them are attending school,” she told DW.

Her husband’s parents also died in the flood. “My husband has no surviving family members left to help me take care of the children. The government has assisted me. If it didn’t rescue me and offer me a temporary home, I would have gone mad.”

Preventing future disasters

Another main concern, aside from providing housing to the affected communities, is preventing any future disasters.

While the floods and the mudslide were a result of the heavy rains, human activities such as sand and rock mining, clearing away trees and vegetation, as well as poor urban planning and construction are believed to have exacerbated the effect.

“When you look at Sugar Loaf, one of the highest mountains in Freetown, there have been a lot of human activities there in terms of removing the forest cover and constructing houses,” Joseph Rahall, from the Sierra Leonean NGO Green Scenery, told DW shortly after the disaster:  “people fail to realise that those parts of the city are not sitting on firm rocks. They are sitting on red earth which easily becomes saturated with water.”

Both the government and the people are aware of the problem, Rahall explained, but the land for housing in Freetown is scarce. “I really think that houses constructed in certain areas where they are not supposed to construct, should be brought down and the government should take a firm position on this. Where applicable, if there are ways that people can be resettled or given land in other places, let them do so,” he argued.

According to the United Nations Sierra Leone office, proper planning and risk assessment is needed to prevent further disasters, as well as a coordinated approach by all those responsible.

According to Turay, Sierra Leone’s government has been addressing the housing issue. “We will not be able to stop disasters,” she said. “But we have been engaging the communities, especially in disaster-prone areas. We have our volunteers and they have been talking to communities [to make sure they don’t build] their houses in disaster-prone areas.”

Turay is confident that the government’s efforts will bear fruit. “Together with the Ministry of Land, I think we will be able to minimize the impact.”

Nevertheless, there is still much work to do. According to the Damage and Loss Assessment survey, a program supported by the UN and the World Bank, over 900 buildings were damaged by the flash floods and mudslide. The survey estimates that 13.29 million US dollars (11.28 euros) are needed for the overall recovery.

Read more here:

https://mg.co.za/article/2017-12-12-sierra-leone-flood-survivors-stuck-in-temporary-shelters

The lives of hundreds of child mudslide victims of Sierra Leone in peril

17 December 2017

As government abandons mudslide survivors 72 families will exit don Bosco on Monday.

It is still not clear where this families of 223 women and children will go.

The government of president Ernest Bai Koroma promised housing for the survivors few days when the disaster occurred, but the hopes of of accommodation has vanished into thin Air.

The government later promised Le5 million to each family to help them rent immediate accommodation, but unfortunately the cash transfer is another sham just like the housing.

Extra time at Don Bosco relief camp for Freetown Flood survivors

Awoko News: 27 November 2017

On Wednesday 15 November 2017, the government officially closed relief camps, which hosted the August 1, 2017 landslide and flood disaster victims.

However, the Don Bosco Fambul have extended their temporary relief camp to the 15 December 2017.

The Deputy Director of the organisation, Samuel Bo-John said they are housing about 227 survivors with 152 children. He noted one reason to extend the camp was to afford the children to complete their school terms.

He said most of the children are attending school at their Fort Street location.

The All Stars Musicians and Heal Sierra Leone presented some learning materials, clothing, snacks and toiletries for the survivors.
ES/18/11/17
By Edna Smalle

Water problems plague patients at 34 Military Hospital in Freetown

Awoko News: 27 November 2017

Rotary Club Pres. With Hospital Matron and DoctorIn many parts of the world, millions of people suffer and die as a result of limited access to clean and safe water at an affordable cost. I

n Sierra Leone, there is an abundance of water with many overflowing rivers and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.

But many of the 7 million people still suffer without access to clean and safe water, especially in rural communities. According to the UN, only 58% of the population has access to clean and safe water.

Many schools don’t have access to water or sanitation facilities. The Ebola epidemic revealed a clear problem with water and sanitation facilities at health centres and hospitals.

The lack of water at health centres limited treatment options and prevented sanitary conditions.

Water facilities at the 34 Military Hospital, in Wilberforce, are abysmal and patients suffer because of it.

The Maternity Wing of the Military Hospital had access to one 500 litre tank of water, which was supplied by a Guma pipe.

The pipe-borne water was often not functioning and water had to be hauled from other locations to service the operation theatres, washrooms, delivery areas and patient care wards.

The Hospital Matron, Colonel Amelia Paris, said the Wilberforce community is still suffering from the lack of pipe-borne water and the current tank at the 20 bed maternity facility is far too small to meet the demands of patients and hospital staff.

Captain, Dr. Billy Sankoh noted that during emergencies at the hospital the unavailability of clean safe water made work very difficult for theatre staff, nurses and doctors.

The Rotary Club of Freetown, with support from other Rotary Clubs, last week provided a bore hole and water storage tanks and a sump pump to fill the reserve tanks.

The reserve water is now 13,000 litres and should be enough to service the Maternity Wing for several days at a time.
Rotary Club President,

Samuel Itam, said, “To maintain proper hygiene and sanitation, Rotary decided to step in with a water project to alleviate the water challenges in the maternity hospital.”

Colonel Paris added, “The new water facility will improve hygiene and sanitation in the Hospital and it will save more lives.”

Captain, Dr. Billy Sankoh said, “Now that the Maternity Wing has its own water facility, it will made work easier and staff will be more efficient in their duties.”

AC/18/11/17
By Ade Campbell

Failed promises – survivors of deadly mudslide left homeless by Sierra Leone government

Guardian Newspaper – Cooper Inveen in Freetown reports

21 November 2017

With little sign of promised government help, hundreds of families displaced by the disaster in August now face eviction from government shelters

The government of Sierra Leone has started closing down the emergency camps housing hundreds of families displaced by August’s deadly landslides, despite many people saying they still have nowhere to go.

After heavy rains triggered floods and a landslide in Freetown on 14 Augustkilling an estimated 1,000 people and displacing three times that number, survivors moved into temporary camps while awaiting permanent resettlement, as promised by the Sierra Leonean government.

Most of the 98 families living in the two official government camps, largely funded by UK Aid and the World Food Programme, had received financial assistance prior to the closure of the shelters on 15 November.

But nearly 500 other families were staying in four unfinished buildings that had served as an informal refuge for three months. Despite most having been approved for relocation assistance, the majority said they had yet to receive it.

As the two official camps ceased operations last week, organisers of the four informal shelters refused to evict survivors until they were taken care of.

“A government team came by … and told us to clear the camps by 15 November, but we as community elders will not force these people to leave while they still have nowhere else to stay,” said Abu Bakar Conteh, head of the community at the base of the landslide.

“After [the mudslides] people were told to abandon the areas where their homes were, so they came up here to these buildings. Since they’ve been here, no one’s been able to give them anything that could help resettle them.”

However, the government has accused those living in the informal shelters of trying to defraud the relief effort. Head of the Office of National Security (ONS), Ismail Tarawali, said: “Most of the people there were not actually affected, but are just trying to fool the system. People bring their families from up country to come and make fake claims. It makes it very difficult to conclude this exercise. Some people are just rogues.”

The majority of people in the shelters have been verified as legitimate by the UN.

Over the last two months, international organisations have gradually reduced their support to the informal shelters. Many of those living outside the two government camps weren’t registered for assistance until 11 November, nearly three months after the mudslide.

Street Child, a UK-based charity, said it would continue to provide food to people living in those camps, despite the conclusion of the wider relief effort.

“This is all about accommodation,” said Celia Mansaray, project manager for Street Child’s mudslide response. “We have genuine cases of people who lost their families who were not verified until last week, and there are others who still haven’t been … At night these buildings are jam-packed with people who have no place to go … If the camps were to actually close … what would be their fate? What kind of government doesn’t address these problems?”

Official assurances that at least 52 houses would become available to mudslide survivors by mid-October have yet to bear fruit. Officials now say the housing project was merely delayed and that once it gets off the ground again, more than 1,000 houses will be built for victims of natural disasters on the outskirts of Freetown.

Survivors across the various shelters claim to have been given no information about how much the homes will cost, when they will be built or how to apply for them.

An official from the UN children’s agency, Unicef, the main organisers of the two government camps, said they were first informed of the new housing plan on 15 November, and did not know how the government intended to fund it.

On 20 November the ONS announced that verified survivors who had not received their aid packages would be permitted to continue sleeping in the formal and informal shelters until they did.

That decision followed a police crackdown on a protest outside President Ernest Bai Koroma’s mansion by residents of one of the government camps, who claimed the ONS was forcing them on to the streets without financial support. Several people were injured, including a breastfeeding mother.

“You need to have respect for leadership, not demonstrate every small thing,” Tarawali told survivors at the same camp. “We’ve told people that to demonstrate in this country you need permission, to call the police so they can protect you from bad people who want to join in.”

Relocation funds provided by UK Aid are being sent to verified survivors through a mobile banking app. Those who lost their phones or ID cards in the mudslide have waited weeks to be issued replacements in order to access their funds, and some have been sent only small amounts of the roughly $280 (£237) they were promised.

Others have complained that even the full amount is not enough to secure housing for an entire family, let alone support them for two months, as officials said it would.

“All we ask the government is that [those of] us who are left who they’ve already verified, just give us the assistance promised so we can at least try to go live a normal life again,” said Fina Koroma, who lost her whole family apart from her infant daughter in the flooding.

“I don’t want to stay here. This place is right next to the disaster site and seeing the hillside every time I turn around makes me unhappy,” she said. “Your memory goes back to that day and what you had before and you can’t get it out of your head … You remember your brothers and sisters and how everyone used to live together, but you don’t see them any more.”

In another report on this sad story:

Jamie Hitchen, policy researcher at the Africa Research Institute, told International Business Times UK that people are being told to leave “hastily assembled camps, but the government has seemingly no plan as to where they should go”.

He said that the government had promised to build 52 houses on the outskirts of Freetown by mid-October, but that these plans have not materialised.

Hitchen said that the evictions would force people without a support network to live “in parts of the city susceptible to flooding or return to areas close to where their houses were destroyed in August.”

He added that the government’s response to the disaster has been “bereft of long-term thinking” and has failed to address “underlying challenges in urban management and deforestation that cause annual flooding in Freetown”.

Hitchen criticised the financial support offered to survivors. “Each survivor is to be given only a little over £200 to start again,” he said. “These are people who lost everything during the mudslides.”

Survivors of Mudslide Fear for Future as Camps Close

22 November 2017

Freetown — About 1,900 households with over 7,000 people have been registered as needing help

After losing her baby boy in the devastating mudslide near the Sierra Leone capital Freetown, Aminata Kamara now fears that she could also be forced out of her home city when camps for survivors of August’s deadly landslide close next week.

Kamara was asleep in the early hours of Aug. 14 when three days of incessant, heavy rains sparked a mudslide on Freetown’s crowded Mount Sugar Loaf, killing an estimated 500 people.

The community of Regent, on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf, was devastated, with locals believing the real death toll is closer to 1,000 people with hundreds still lying dead under the rubble and more than 3,000 left homeless.

“We felt the ground move and heard the trees from the hill fall,” Kamara, still visibly scarred on her head and feet, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I felt the force of something push me down. I fell with my child and passed out instantly. I was covered entirely in dirt but luckily my hands were visible and that’s how they found me.”

But her baby, Mohamed Sesay, was consumed by the force of the earth. His body has not been found.

Kamara is one of thousands who lost everything in the mudslide and is now living in one of several camps set up by the government with the help of international aid agencies.

About 1,900 households with over 7,000 people have been registered as needing help, according to O.B. Sisay who is leading a disaster response taskforce set up the president. He led the response team after a 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Sisay said some people have wrongly claimed to be mudslide victims in the West African country that was already struggling to help all those impacted by the Ebola crisis in 2014 that killed about 3,000 and a civil war raging from 1991 until 2002.

WORRIES FOR FUTURE

With the camps due to close on Nov. 15, registered survivors are being given cash of $200 or more and food and non-food items to help them start to rebuild their lives or re-locate to the provinces.

This is being supported by Britain’s International Department of International Development (DFID) with more funds for food available from the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) to people who voluntarily resettle.

But many fear this is not enough to live in Freetown and they are worried about leaving behind jobs in a country where 70 percent of youth are unemployed or underemployed and 60 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day.

“The relief aid the government is giving is meagre. We have no idea what will happen next,” said youth leader Hassan Turay who lived in Regent for 12 years and is waiting for his wife who was injured in the mudslide to be released from hospital.

“In our home, our kids had their own room, my wife and I had a room and we had one living room. It wasn’t a lot, but we were comfortable, I was content. But now it’s all gone, my life has gone backwards.”

Freetown, initially designed by colonial-era British administrators and home to more than one million people, has been plagued by heavy rains and flooding yearly since 2008.

Its many slums and informal settlements are built high on mountain slopes, leaving tens of thousands of inhabitants vulnerable to death and displacement when the rains come.

Builders have encroached into protected forest areas on the hills behind the city, causing soil erosion – a phenomenon that contributed to the August landslide.

While there are promises of homes being built for victims of the August mudslide, so far only 57 homes have been constructed, all away from the city centre.

“The government cannot afford to build homes for all those affected and all those in disaster prone areas,” Sisay told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Nowhere in the world is the government in the business of giving free homes. Whilst you would like to promise the affected people free, long-term houses, you would be lying.”

For Kamara and others the future looks uncertain.

“We have nowhere to stay, our house was destroyed. Nothing was salvaged. If the government forsakes us, I don’t have a Plan B,” she said.

Reporting by Nicky Milne for The Thomson Reuters Trust

 

Sierra Leone Ebola orphans need help with their education

19 October 2017

The 2017/2018 school year has started in earnest in Sierra Leone, and many children are happily being sent off to school by their parents with brand new uniforms, school bags, and books.

However, many other children are not that lucky. These are orphans who lost one or both parents to the Ebola Virus Disease that ravaged the country in 2014 and 2015. Known simply as Ebola Orphans, there are thousands living around the Mano River Union basin of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In particular, hundreds of these children living in Sierra Leone cannot access proper education as their guardians cannot afford to fully support them.

To ameliorate their plight, the government of Sierra Leone is collaborating with the President of the regional body of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Protection, Gender and Children Affairs.

Sierra Leone’s Minister responsible for Children and Social Welfare – Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, has this week on Wednesday, October 18th 2017, launched the start of an educational support scheme for 1,000 Ebola Orphans around the country.

Jointly funded by ECOWAS and the Ministry, the project will ensure at least 400 orphans from Western Area (Freetown) and up to 600 from the Provinces are provided with school bags and other school items, as well as cash transfer of Le200,000 given to guardians of orphans in Primary School and Le300,000 given to guardians of orphans in Secondary School. The cash transfer is to enable the guardians to purchase new uniforms and shoes.

The project is being implemented nationwide by the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) who are now the Key partners of government in all social protection issues for Ebola-affected citizens. In her statement, Minister Blyden said the government and partners have spent a lot of time and money on capacitating SLAES to be a self-motivated entity that is capable of implementing projects. She said today that the government is very proud of SLAES and fully trusted them.

Minister Blyden said that President Koroma has been keeping to his promise to Ebola affected citizens which include Ebola Orphans across the country. Whilst burnishing the credentials of Mohamed Chernoh Chericoco Bah, her party’s Vice Presidential candidate for the 2018 elections, the Minister said Bah is well known for giving out scholarships to hundreds of needy children across the country. The Minister said that the APC government has always been concerned about educating the next generation.

She said she has already made a request to ECOWAS which was being “very seriously considered” for this educational support to Ebola orphans to continue into next academic year and future years. This year’s support is half a Billion Leones and will provide support to 1,000 Ebola Orphans.

She said the orphans have lost parents, but should not lose hope as government is there for them. She encouraged the guardians and caregivers of the orphans to take good care of the orphans. “It is only God who can adequately reward” she said. Minister Blyden strongly advised that the cash transfer collected was to be used only for educational support and nothing else.

The President of SLAES, Yusuf Kabba said they are very thankful to the government, especially Minister Blyden for her patience and love for Ebola affected citizens. He said the orphans have lost their parents, but Dr. Blyden is there as a mother for all the orphans across the country.

He said the happiness of these orphans is very important to the Survivors Association, as many of the children’s parents died in front of survivors in Ebola Treatment Centers where they had been admitted. He said whilst the parents were dying, they were begging others not to forget the children they were leaving behind. So those who survived the disease owe it to those who died.

“This is why we are implementing this project. We owe it to those who died in front of our eyes,” Mr. Yusuf Kabba said.

The distribution and verification process for the scheme will last three days in the Western Area, following which, the Ebola Survivors are going to travel around the entire country with the support of Ministry officials to distribute the cash transfer and other educational materials to needy Ebola Orphans.