Sierra Leone: Landslide in Freetown
Report by Karin Kathöfer
On August 14, 2017 a heavy landslide occurred in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Enduring torrential rainfall in the preceding days caused the so-called "Sugar Loaf Mountain" right next to the city centre of Freetown to collapse. The exact death toll is still unknown. By the end of August local authorities reported 500 people found dead. Weeks after the calamity hundreds are still missing, which has led other sources to report more than 1.000 victims.
5.000 people have lost their homes and belongings and already fragile infrastructure broke down entirely. Against the backdrop of desolate waste and water management systems the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera increases.
The ifa-funded projects in this context focus primarily on covering basic needs of the affected. Victims receive food, mattresses and blankets as well as hygiene products. In addition, the affected people are supported psychologically. Local volunteer teams receive the necessary items for the ongoing clean-up operations. The funded organisations are locally well-connected and cooperate closely with national and international humanitarian agencies.
Underlying Structures Remain Untouched
Such measures are, of course, indispensable to ensure the survival of the people. However, they barely touch upon the underlying structures that contributed to the disaster. While this landslide is unprecedented, strong rains in the Freetown area led to similar issues in recent years. For example, in 2015 several people died in the wake of severe flooding and entire areas of the city have been flooded every single year since 2008. As many other countries of the "Global South", Sierra Leone is experiencing increasing urbanization. Cities expand uncontrollably and primarily the poorest settle on unsafe and unfavorable slopes. A recent study suggests that Freetown lacks 166.000 adequate houses. Even more alarmingly, the study expects this figure to double over the course of the next decade. The current disaster and its consequences are a strong indication of the city's dire need for large-scale infrastructure investments. For such projects, Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries, lacks both financial resources and political will.