Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone

by IsraAID
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Emergency Mudslide Relief in Sierra Leone
Freetown First Responders Graduation Ceremony
Freetown First Responders Graduation Ceremony

Following the 2017 mudslides that devastated the Freetown area in Sierra Leone, IsraAID has been working with its local partners to bolster capacity should another tragedy strike the affected communities. Since IsraAID’s deployment to Sierra Leone amid the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the team on the ground has worked in the fields of psychosocial support and disaster risk reduction to ensure that a network of local leaders is trained and ready for the future.

IsraAID partnered with the Sierra Leone Red Cross and Restless Development, a civil society organization, to increase community involvement in emergency response. A Community Action Plan was developed in partnership with local organizations to identify hazards and prepare for future potential disasters, emphasizing cultivating young community leaders. The program includes school visits and public discourse in marketplaces to raise awareness of this strategy, and engage more citizens in this ongoing discussion.

Nineteen community-based organizations from across the areas of Kamayama and Kaningo worked together with IsraAID in coordinating a response plan, and bringing crucial awareness to members of the community. Studies show that when a plan is in place, people are much more able to bounce back better in amid challenges. This widespread local involvement is key to long-term mitigation of disaster impact.

IsraAID Sierra Leone has worked on additional issues facing local society. For example, IsraAID has worked to strengthen awareness of child protection issues within the justice system including separating the issue of children in conflict with the law from the general criminal justice sector; providing rehabilitation capacity building for juveniles; and increasing psychosocial programming to support the reintegration of children into their communities.

Additionally, IsraAID has worked in partnership with Grand Challenges Canada to improve maternal health education through psychosocial support provided in peer group sessions to women and men aged 13 to 25. Sierra Leone has seen a significant increase in the number of teenage pregnancies in the last two decades, since the civil war ended in 2002, following the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, and the 2017 mudslides. By creating a network of better-informed young mothers and fathers, the 16-module program increases emotional resiliency and mental health among these often stigmatized vulnerable populations.

Sara, an 18-year-old woman, became pregnant as a teenager and dropped out of school. “My family was disappointed. I was considered a disgrace to them...My mother was shattered…I was devastated. It became even worse when I was forced into early marriage. It was like throwing my life away and being another statistic…In the community, with friends, established relationships were broken. I was forced into isolation…During the sessions with IsraAID, I made friends whose situation was like mine or even worse.  Together as a group, we built a family. The sessions have had a positive impact on my life. I have found inner peace, strength, and resilience to bounce back and make the best out of life…I have decided to enroll [myself in school] so I can further my education…I feel grateful and empowered to achieve the best I can. It feels like I have been awakened to pursue something. The IsraAID team has created the foundation for my friends and me.”

Thank you for your support of these essential programs in Sierra Leone!

IsraAID Staff leads psychosocial support sessions
IsraAID Staff leads psychosocial support sessions
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Moses
Moses

MEET THE FREETOWN FIRST RESPONDERS

The Freetown First Responders is a group of 30 young people from communities affected by last year’s mudslides in Sierra Leone, which claimed the lives of hundreds in August 2017. The floods came just as Sierra Leone was beginning to recover from the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. Now, these 30 leaders undergo training with IsraAID staff on Disaster Risk Reduction and Psychosocial support, to bolster resilience and lead their communities should a disaster occur in the future.

Moses, a resident of Kamayama Freetown, wanted to serve as a member of the armed forces of Sierra Leone. He was rejected from joining shortly before the mudslide, which he remembers as a dark time in his life. During the mudslides, Moses worked as a member of a rescue team in his community, “I assumed everything was fine with me, until after a few days I started to experience nightmares.” He credits the support of his friends and families with his recovery from these mental health challenges. “With this training, I have gained increased knowledge and I feel well equipped to provide care and support in case of emergencies in my community,” says Moses of the Freetown First Responders program.

Fatu has lived in Kamayama since she was 12 years old. She describes the mudslides as her “worst moments,” when her uncle lost 12 members of his family. “The grief was too heavy to bear, and I lacked the necessary skills to comfort and restore hope to my uncle and the rest of my relatives,” explains Fatu, describing her motivation to join the Freetown First Responders program. At the start of the program, Fatu says she was shy, quiet and reserved, and had always struggled with managing her anger. “I can confidently say I have benefited from some tips on anger management, as well as conflict resolution, psychosocial support, self-care, and symptoms of burnout,” she adds.

“My name is Aiah, and I am a change maker.” Aiah recalls difficulty during the first sessions of the Freetown First Responders program. “I experienced anxiety and fright,” but quickly, learned to utilize the coping mechanisms taught in the program, like deep breathing exercises. “My favorite part has been establishing trust, ensuring an environment conducive for participants. As a team, we look forward to implementing these skills and techniques.

Thank you for your ongoing support, which helps us amplify our reach through these inspiring community leaders!

Fatu
Fatu
Aiah
Aiah
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In August last year, heavy rainfall in Freetown, Sierra Leone, devastated entire areas of the city with flooding and mudslides. Communities were left buried under more than 50 feet of mud and boulders. The situation was exacerbated by inadequate waste management and drainage infrastructure, coupled with overcrowding. 6,000 people were affected, with 1,141 people reported either dead or missing.

The hardest hit were some of Freetown’s most vulnerable people, who had been greatly affected by the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak and frequent flooding over the last few years.

IsraAID Sierra Leone has selected a group of 30 young leaders, aged 18-28, for training in how to provide psychosocial support in emergencies and how to reduce the risk of disasters in their communities as part of the new Freetown First Responders program. The Freetown First Responders began their training program in July.

The young participants come from Kamayama and Kaningo in Freetown, communities heavily affected by last year's mudslides, and are being provided with the tools needed to build their resilience ahead of the rainy season.

The Freetown First Responders will be well-equipped to share their knowledge with their communities and to assess both the physical and mental health needs of their communities.

With the help of our team, the Freetown First Responders are strengthening the resilience of their communities.

Thank you for your generous support, which makes this possible! More updates to follow ...

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In August last year, extremely heavy rainfall devastated areas of Freetown in Sierra Leone with flooding and mudslides. Communities were left buried under more than 50 feet of mud and boulders. The situation was exacerbated by inadequate waste management and drainage infrastructure, and overcrowding. 6,000 people were affected, with 1,141 people reported either dead or missing.

The hardest hit were some of Freetown’s most vulnerable communities and impoverished families, who had been greatly affected by the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak and frequent flooding over the last few years.

Following the mudslides, IsraAID’s team in Sierra Leone provided emergency psychosocial support to survivors, set up water, sanitation and hygiene measures and distributed hygiene kits in affected communities. Now, IsraAID’s team has turned towards long-term programming, with the aim of ensuring that at-risk communities are better protected and prepared for future emergencies.

In the coming months, IsraAID – together with partners Restless Development and the Sierra Leone Office of National Security – will select a group of 25 young leaders, aged 18-28, who survived the mudslides, to be trained in how to reduce the risk of future disasters and provide psychological first aid and support. This will enable trainees to lead their communities’ responses to potential future mudslides and other emergencies.

The program will focus on the communities of Kamayama and Kaningo in Freetown, which were severely affected by the mudslides and are at particular risk of future disasters. Community leaders will support the process, helping to empower the young trainees. The 25 trainees will then train a further 50 young people, ensuring greater spread of the key skills, knowledge and ways of thinking they have acquired in their communities.

This program is made possible by your generous support. Thank you! More updates to follow ...

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One of the remote communities our team supported
One of the remote communities our team supported

Incessant heavy rainfall on 13-14th August left areas of Freetown in Sierra Leone devastated by flooding and mudslides; some communities were buried in more than 50 feet of mud and boulders. The city's insufficient drainage system, poor waste management and overcrowded urban dwellings further amplified the destruction. There were reportedly 500 fatalities, with over 900 men, women and children registered as missing. 

Overwhelmingly, the disaster affected the most impoverished families in Freetown. This is an already vulnerable population who were hit hardest during the Ebola outbreak, and who have experienced recurrent flooding over recent years. The overcrowded areas and buildings' poor structural integrity had little hope of resisting the flood waters. A total of 5,262 people were registered by the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, in need of recovery assistance.

Following the mudslides, our professionals in Sierra Leone provided psycho-social support to the most affected community members; they also set up water, sanitation and hygiene measures and distributed hygiene kits! 

During the project, IsraAID's team in Sierra Leone;

  • Distributed hygiene kits to affected households.
  • Constructed safe water, hand-washing tippy taps to facilitate good hand hygiene in food preparation areas and in the compounds housing displaced families.
  • Built community washing lines to encourage community members to dry their laundry above the ground to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • Delivered health and hygiene messages to youth volunteers, community leaders and community members.
  • Provided psychosocial support to affected people in interim care centers, households and community meeting areas.
  • Facilitated a multi-faith memorial service led by community and religious leaders, as a closure to the emergency phase.

Psycho-social and mental health support:

The effects of this disaster were felt across the country. As families grieved for their lost relatives and despaired at the loss of homes and possessions, there was confusion, anger, hopelessness and fear with every new drop of rain. IsraAID accompanied the communities and provided psycho-social and mental health support to those most in need.

 

Here are two stories of impact:

One young girl aged 14, who our team supported, lost 19 members of her family. Because she had just finished her exams, her family had sent her away for a holiday trip, saving her life in the process. She expressed grave survivor’s guilt, crying that she would have preferred to be taken with her family then go through her life alone. She feared being taken advantage of because she had nowhere to sleep, and she worried how she will continue school, where she will live, and who will support her. She is just a child who now has to deal with the trauma of losing her entire family in an instant. Our team gave her Psychological First Aid (PFA), to ease her initial distress, and referred her for longer-term support.

Sulaiman, part of the IsraAID Emergency Response Team: "The emergency response was very challenging. Listening to the traumatic stories of victims has not been easy. During this time, I had the opportunity to hear many personal stories of the flood and mudslide victims.

The psychological impact was very severe. Our team provided psycho-social support to help the victims process the disaster's negative effects. It gave them to a safe space to share their stories and build resilience. We also referred some of those who needed, for further and more long-term health and mental health care.

Also, the health and hygiene messages we shared, were important. Our field officers taught communities about hygiene practices post-disaster to prevent the spread of disease. We also built tippy taps to give the communities greater accessibility to hand washing facilities."

 

At the Kamayama memorial ceremony, the key message focused on walking into a hopeful future, while never forgetting their lost loved ones, friends and neighbors.

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Organization Information

IsraAID

Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Navonel Glick
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel

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