Oxfam is providing clean water and hygiene kits to survivors of yesterday’s mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The international agency initially plans to help almost 2,000 households amidst concerns that continued heavy rains, overcrowding and inadequate water and sanitation systems will leave people extremely vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.
Daniel Byrne, part of the Oxfam team that visited the worst affected areas, said: “We saw mass destruction – people were pulling bodies out with their bare hands. We didn’t see any survivors from the homes that had been submerged. Neighbors have been taking in people who have lost their homes. We spoke to one person who has taken thirty people into their home which has just three rooms.
“These are some of the poorest areas in Freetown. Water and sanitation in homes is at best very basic, but at worst non-existent. Overcrowding is a serious health risk and a potential breeding ground for the spread of disease.”
More than 300 people have died, with an estimated 3,000 people made homeless by the mudslide, which was caused by heavy rains. People are being moved to response centers set up in local schools and police stations, but the Sierra Leone Office of National Security expressed serious concerns about the health situation, warning that water and sanitation must be urgently addressed in order to mitigate the risk of a cholera epidemic.
Oxfam’s Sierra Leone country director Thynn Thynn said: “The disaster has left thousands of extremely poor people without a home. The city experiences floods every year but not on this scale. Oxfam is working with its partners in Freetown to help survivors and prevent any outbreaks of diseases."