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)

THE
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 which is expected 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)

Co-incidentally, the
World Humanitarian Day (to be observed tomorrow) could not have come at a
better time. I totally believe that the government and people of Sierra Leone
are in great need of humanitarian assistance and we need to all get involved in
our own little way because no effort is too little. Every contribution to make
life better for the next person would make the world a better place and cushion
the effects of a disaster of this magnitude. #SierraLeoneNeedsUs

God Bless Us All

Olusanya, Oluwole
Sheriff
Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.