On the ground in Sierra Leone after mudslide sweeps away homes

On the night of Monday 13 August 2017, Sierra Leone's capital city Freetown experienced torrential rains and landslides. The Government has confirmed that at least 297 people have died - including 109 children. The death toll is expected to rise ...

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On the night of Monday 13 August 2017, Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown experienced torrential rains and landslides. The Government has confirmed that at least 297 people have died – including 109 children. The death toll is expected to rise significantly, since 600 people – including children – are still unaccounted for. Initial assessments of the affected areas indicate that over a thousand households have been affected.

The United Nations disaster response plan has been activated. UNICEF response teams have been deployed to two community schools being used as temporary shelters for affected communities (one in Regent and one in Kaningo). Their work to assess the needs of survivors is still underway, but UNICEF and partners are already supporting the response with water, sanitation, hygiene, essential medicines, nutritional services, child protection and education. Community teams are talking to survivors about the best way to avoid diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera, and prevent malaria.

A young boy washes his hands with materials he got as part of a kit from UNICEF, and its partners
Work to assess the needs of mudslide survivors is underway, with teams spreading out into communities

“The scale of the damage is unprecedented,” said UNICEF Representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim. “Children have been left homeless, vulnerable and terrified. We must do all we can to protect them from disease and exploitation.”

UNICEF is on the ground at the site of the Freetown mudslide, working to help thousands of affected children

What is UNICEF doing?

UNICEF is working with partners to distribute water and sanitation kits including mobile toilets and hand-washing facilities.

Our teams are harvesting rainwater to help with the low supplies of water.

Medicines, body bags and materials to prevent and control infection are being given out in order to avoid the spread of diseases, like cholera.

Child protection is a top priority, as always in an emergency situation. Our colleagues are working to identify displaced and separated children, and to reunite them with their families. UNICEF is also offering psycho-social support to those children traumatised by the events.

New Mothers and their infants are being prioritised for nutrition support.

Finally, schools are due to start back after the summer break in two weeks time. As part of UNICEF’s ongoing push to ensure that children stay in education during emergencies, the work of assessing the damage done to schools has already begun.

U-Report – a disaster communications tool

UNICEF’s survey tool U-Report has been deployed (also available in Ireland)

UNICEF is able to communicate with people in communities that have been cut off by disaster, through its innovative U-Report tool. Aid workers can find out first-hand from young people living in disaster zones, what the extent of the damage is. Around half of those polled by U-Report said their biggest concern right now is finding missing relatives. More than a third of respondents said their water supply had been affected by the flooding disaster. More results can be found on the following link: https://sierraleone.ureport.in/poll/2191/