REGENT, Sierra Leone — On August 14, 2017, Sierra Leone endured a tragedy that killed more than 1,000 people in the town of Regent. That tragedy was a mudslide in Sierra Leone followed by intense rain that buried houses along the mountainside. Additionally, government action following the disaster was questionable. The speculation and anticipation of an event like this occurring seemed inevitable, specifically on the mountainside where the mudslide occurred.
Events Leading Up to the Mudslide
The mudslide in Sierra Leone was primarily due to gradual deforestation combined with the rapid construction of houses. Additionally, there was no consideration for the previous mudslides that occurred, such as the sugar loaf collapse, which was fatal to many people. They even stripped plant life from 30% of the Sierra Leone forest and destroyed most of the agricultural land.
Many townspeople wrote to the government to express concerns about the disaster in the making as the population grew and the townspeople began to see degradation to a mountainside once full of trees. In addition to the exposed area having little vegetation to protect from heavy rain, the houses were also of poor quality.
Sierra Leone is filled with geological prospects that are highly valued. However, the harsh erosion from mining makes the land more vulnerable to climate conditions. Environmental damages caused by mining contributes to air and water pollution in addition to threatening species habitats and biodiversity.
Those who the mudslide did not kill now face the loss of their homes, livelihoods and families. Since the tragedy occurred, there has been a drop in school attendance and a rise in poverty rates. Those who were near the accident and managed to survive attempted to dig for people. Ambulances leftover from the Ebola virus response also went to the site to assist.
Rebuilding the Community
Non-governmental organizations and people within the community have been responding by taking action in trying to restore the damage caused by deforestation. The United Nations Office of Project Sevices (UNOPS) is bringing together equal numbers of men and women to help with restoration projects. Its goal is to address gender equality while providing jobs to families who have struggled in finding work. Together, a ground crew planted 10-15 thousand trees. Whenever they found a body, they contacted the Ministry of Health.
Moreover, Global Giving has raised $138,854 to provide essential services for the survivors. Those essential services include shelter, psychological help, as well as food and water. That funding provided relief efforts from organizations including Develop Africa, Chid Help, WeownTV and Israaid, all of which serve a wide range of assistance for the survivors of the mudslide in Sierra Leone, including scholarships for children to go back to school.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a local organization that works on sustaining the environment and wildlife in Sierra Leone, donated 1,500 trees to the town of Regent. It is also focusing on educating the youth on environmental protection practices.
Before and After the Mudslide
The mudslide in Sierra Leone caused much damage to the town of Regent. However, it is important to remember that Sierra Leone was dealing with other challenges even before the mudslide. Some of those challenges included a Civil War in the 1990s and the Ebola outbreak.
Furthermore, a large community of people shares very few water pumps. Aside from environmental damage, the rain tends to empty the gutters, which then travels into the town. Additionally, more than half of the population of Sierra Leone still lives in extreme poverty and the country relies on aid. Illiteracy is commonly found in youth and more than half are unemployed.
The mudslide in Sierra Leone was a tragedy that increased the rates of poverty and highlighted the country’s major challenges. Although it occurred several years ago, environmental issues remain and many people are not receiving the help they need. Fortunately, this mudslide in Sierra Leone has encouraged the community and the government to take action and avoid future calamities. To address the issues of gender inequality and youth unemployment, Sierra Leona has “Saturday Courts” which confront sexual violence cases amongst the country. The National Youth Commission is taking steps to ensure more employment opportunities are available to the countries youth. The government even re-enacted the cleaning schedule soon after the mudslide and the streets are now clean of pollution.
– Zoe Schlagel