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Sierra Leoneans brave recovery process,
grief one month after destructive mudslide

By Alusine Sesay FREETOWN (Xinhua) -- The atmosphere of grief that engulfed Sierra Leone following a devastating mudslide that hit the capital Freetown on Aug. 14 this year is gradually giving way to a recovery process.

The day would ever be remembered in Sierra Leone for it left an indelible print on the minds of thousands of family members, who lost their loved ones in the historical mudslides and flooding that killed over one thousand people.

According to government records, nearly five hundred people were buried at Waterloo in the outskirt of the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown.

The disaster affected several communities across Freetown, but foremost among them were Mortomeh at Mount Sugar Loaf in the Regent Community where it is believed hundreds are still left buried under the rubble and Kaningo in the Lumley community, where hundreds were swept away by the flooding.

One month after the disaster occurred, government and development partners are now focused on a massive recovery process. Temporary housing facilities have been provided at Old Skool in the Regent community, Juba Military Barracks and Kaningo community, for affected victims of the disaster.

Mohamed Suma, a private security guard, is one of the lucky people who survived the dreadful mudslide that buried hundreds at Mortomeh. He lost eight of his family members including his seven years old daughter, Memunatu Suma. Mohamed is temporarily housed at Old Skool. He reflected on the fateful day and how he survived.

“I can’t imagine how it happens. I used to wake up early every morning. On that fateful day, I was standing outside smoking cigarette when I heard a loud roar. I saw the mountain rolling down towards the valley. I could not help but immediately ran away,” he narrated.

“I could not make an attempt to save my family because it was too late for me,” he said.

However, being temporarily housed under a tent at Old Skool, Mohamed seems to be overcoming the grief of losing his family to the mudslide. “I have to cope because it has been done. I cannot do anything else but to endure the pain,” he said.

At the temporal housing facilities provided by the government and partners, affected victims are served with meals twice per day while medical and water facilities are also available. The recovery process is being led by the Office of National Security (ONS).

Languba Keili is the communication leader at ONS. He told Xinhua that 50 tents have been built at Juba Barracks, one for each household, while at Old Skool, more tents, each able to house over two households, were built.

According to him, all affected victims would benefit from several humanitarian packages while temporarily being housed.

“The first package is the Humanitarian Cash Transfer which all affected persons will receive in a three-month installment for their immediate needs. We are starting this September with the sum of Le870, 000 (over 100 U.S. dollars) and in October Le217, 500, and Le217, 500 in November for every household,” he said.

He continued that the second part would be meant to provide food for all affected persons, who choose to find their own accommodations, starting from this September with a package of food supply for household, while cash transfer of Le783, 000 would take place in October, plus Le783, 000 in November.

“All payment will be made through Airtel money transfer and they will receive new sim cards and those who do not have phones will be provided with one reasonable phone by a mobile company,” he said.

While affected victims are temporarily housed in the three camps, government has secured a large portion of land at Mile 6 in the outskirt of Freetown, to construct permanent structures for the victims.

Currently, three local construction companies including Parvifort, Jento Group of Companies and Secon Sierra Leone Limited, are constructing fifty permanent structures for victims at Mile 6. They are doing so as part of their own contribution towards the recovery process.

Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone,Victor Bockarie Foh, is in charge of all donations made by individuals, organizations and other development partners. Having received hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars as humanitarian aid, he said the money would be used to construct permanent structures for all affected victims at Mile 6.

While the disaster left hundreds of children orphaned, many are being housed at the Catholic Don Bosco Fambul facility in Freetown where they are being cared for. Many have started attending schools as the academic year started in September 11, 2017. They are provided with scholarships by government, individuals and other development partners.

With the country poised to prevent future disaster of like nature, the government is also planning to relocate people from disaster prone communities including the hill side and seaside communities respectively.

The land which has been earmarked at Mile 6 would not only cater for the August 14 disaster, but also people currently living in disaster prone communities.

Although the August disaster left indelible print on the minds of many Sierra Leoneans, especially those directly affected, the government is now fighting tooth and nail to bring solace to the entire nation.

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