In the morning of August 14th, Freetown - the capital of Sierra Leone - experienced heavy rains which led to a landslide. Hundreds of houses were demolished as rocks, mud and water swept over an area of over five kilometers. The United Nations were on the scene from the very beginning, providing instant support to survivors but also looking to ensure the medium and long term recovery.
In this photo story you will find a collection of stories of how the UN is working together as one to make sure those affected are receiving the support they need to make it through the following days and weeks, as well as planning for the long term recovery of Freetown and Sierra Leone.
UNICEF and partners are working with the local authorities to reunite children that may have become separated from their families, and make sure that children can get the support they need to deal with the traumatic events they may have experienced.
UNICEF has also opened child friendly spaces for all affected children.
"I lost three children, an eighteen year old boy, a fifteen year old girl and a fourteen year old girl. I woke up to pray and had gone to the mosque up the hill. As I was praying I heard this very loud sound, that must have been the moment the mountain came down.
I have been receiving meals at the rescue centre. UNICEF also installed toilets here and I am in charge of looking after them. I lost everything in my house, my children as well as all my money. I work in construction and had saved 10 million Leones. It is all gone now".
Pa Ali Koroma
WFP food distributions are ongoing in the affected areas with 'two-week' rations delivered to more than 1,500 households. This emergency food operation is reaching the most vulnerable & displaced people affected by the landslide.
UNICEF is providing both Water and Sanitation (WASH) packages to the affected communities and medical supplies such as heavy duty gloves and body bags to the main Freetown hospitals .
A temporary health post has been established at the displacement centre in Regent (source of the landslide) providing health services for people living close to the site.
"My four children were taken by the water. I have only my granddaughter now. She was staying with me when it happened. She has lost her mother and uncles. I will look after her now".
“Our boots are fully on the ground. We were among the first ones to be there, and we are ensuring that humanitarian assistance immediately reaches women,” said Mary Okumu, UN Women Representative in Sierra Leone.
Making humanitarian action work for women also requires ensuring that women’s voices and experiences are incorporated in planning recovery assistance, as women are often the first responders and caregivers in their households and communities.
UNFPA Representative, Dr. Kim Dickson said, “As in most humanitarian emergencies, women and girls are particularly vulnerable and their specific needs are often overlooked. The disaster has left a great number of women and girls without adequate sanitation, shelter, drinking water, or access to gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services. The UNFPA dignity kits will help women and girls maintain a sense of dignity at a time when they need it most.”
In addition to distributing dignity kits, UN Women is preparing to provide economic opportunities for women in temporary shelters, allowing them to earn an income for themselves and their families.
Three empowerment hubs will be set up in affected communities, where one-stop centres will provide safe spaces for 1,000 women to convene, seek psychosocial support and access information and critical services, such as cash-for-work programmes.
Together with the country's Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WHO is helping to address health risks linked to the disaster.
With support from UKAid, the agency is supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to enhance disease surveillance and preparedness, while also strengthening access to vital health services.
This includes community engagement and psychosocial support, with Mental Health Nurses now stationed across all of the affected areas.
The WHO has warned that flooding can increase risks of vector and waterborne diseases, which could be devastating for already vulnerable displaced communities.
“People here have lost everything, including their loved ones. There is so much trauma and grief. This is why it is important that we are there in the communities. We are listening to survivors, helping them to manage psychological problems and linking them to the services they deserve,” said Aminata Foday, Mental Health Nurse
Across affected communities and shelter sites, surveillance and preparedness has been enhanced for priority diseases. Health facilities and laboratories have also received additional supplies and trainings so that they can be better prepared against outbreaks.
A local company, Track Your Build, has been working with UNOPS, FAO, the UN Office for Outer Space and scientists from all over the world to create damage and risk assessment maps.
Together with UNOPS, UNDP has engaged the Environmental Protection Agency to development a prevention roadmap that includes immediate evacuation planning in areas that seem prone to a recurrence of the slide. UNDP has also began to assess the localised flooding sites in Eastern Area of Freetown with the aim on guiding ONS on updated community flood prevention.