August 24, 2017

On August 14, after two days of torrential rain, a hillside collapsed and triggered a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Since then, almost 500 people have been announced dead, an estimated 600 people remain missing and 3,000 people have been left homeless.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have carried out assessments of most the affected communities in the area, from the initial location of the mudslide in Regent and along the densely populated river valley to the ocean at the southern side of Freetown. As the immediate medical needs have already been covered, MSF is focusing on ensuring people have access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as this is crucial both for meeting people’s urgent needs and for preventing epidemics of diseases such as malaria and cholera. Many of the villages may also be at risk of further flooding and land instability in this narrow flood-prone valley.

Our teams identified an urgent need for clean water and sanitation assistance in three communities – Pentagon, Kamyama and Jah Kingdom, which have been heavily affected by the severe flooding and mudslide. MSF has set up water-distribution sites in Pentagon and Kamyama, and is providing clean water for around 4,000 people in these communities.

 

Lack of clean water and sanitation

The community of Jah Kingdom has been particularly hard hit; the village is cut off except for a narrow river crossing and the one existing ground well for water has been flooded and left unusable. On August 22 and 23, an MSF team carried out a distribution of water containers and buckets for 210 families and will continue to provide water and sanitation support as needed. Last Saturday, three MSF teams did detailed assessments of the most affected communities in the short but densely-populated river valley from the primary landslide location down to the ocean at the southern side of Freetown.

At the moment, displaced people are quite dispersed, many being sheltered in some central places that opened up in different communities, and it is a challenge to get a complete picture of their needs. It is essential that people living in precarious conditions are quickly provided with sufficient space in temporary shelters, in order to access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, medical care and relief items.

Given the risk of spread of water-borne diseases in such a disaster, MSF is also providing information to the affected communities about maintaining good hygiene practices and the importance of using clean water. At the same time, our teams are monitoring for any signs of these illnesses and are ready to respond in the event of an outbreak.

MSF will continue to assess the needs of people living in other affected communities in the area, including mental health needs of people who have suffered significant trauma with the loss of family members, homes and belongings.

 

First update: August 20, 2017

 

In the early hours of August 14, 2017, after three days of torrential rainfall, a hill located near the pumping station of Regent area in the heights around Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown – around 500 metres above sea level – partly collapsed and triggered a devastating mud and rockslide. As of August 20, the number of confirmed deaths is 499, while hundreds are missing. Thousands of people have been displaced and hundreds of buildings were damaged or destroyed by the mudslides.

Teams from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) carried out detailed assessments of all affected communities in the small but densely-populated river valley, from the location of the landslide down to the ocean at the southern side of Freetown. Our teams identified the communities in most urgent need of water and sanitation assistance, based on population density, level of displacement, lack of clean water supply and lack of sanitation facilities. 

 

The MSF Response

  • Our teams carried out assessments of most of the affected communities in the area, from the initial location of the mudslide in Regent and along the densely populated river valley to the ocean at the southern side of Freetown. As the immediate medical needs are already covered, we are focusing on ensuring people have access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as this is crucial both for meeting people’s urgent needs, as well for preventing epidemics of diseases such as malaria and cholera. Many of the villages in this narrow, flood-prone valley may also be at risk of further flooding and land instability.
     
  • Our teams identified an urgent need for clean water and sanitation assistance in three communities – Pentagon, Kamyama and Jah Kingdom, which were heavily affected by the severe flooding and mudslide.
     
  • MSF has set up water distribution sites in Pentagon and Kamyama, and is providing clean water for around 4,000 people in these communities.
     
  • The community of Jah Kingdom has been particularly hard hit; the village is cut off except for a narrow river crossing, and the one existing ground well for water has been flooded and left unusable. On August 22 and 23, an MSF team carried out a distribution of water containers and buckets for 210 families and will continue to provide water and sanitation support as needed.
     
  • At the moment displaced people are quite dispersed; many are being sheltered in some central areas that opened up in different communities, but it's a challenge to get a complete picture of their needs. It is essential that people living in precarious conditions are quickly provided with sufficient space in all the temporary shelters, in order to access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, medical care and relief items.

 

  • Given the risk of water-borne diseases spreading after such a disaster, we are also providing information to the affected communities about maintaining good hygiene practices and the importance of using clean water. At the same time, our teams are monitoring for any signs of these illnesses and are ready to respond in the event of an outbreak.
     
  • We will continue to assess the needs of people living in other affected communities in the area, including mental health needs of people who have suffered significant trauma with the loss of family members, homes and belongings. 

 

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