Former Mayor of Freetown visits bereaved families after heavy rains killed seven

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2023:

Seven people were killed in Freetown this week, as heavy rains destroyed homes in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. On Wednesday,  the former Mayor of Freetown – Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr  visited families of the deceased to express sympathies and condolences.

The death toll in Freetown is the result of deforestation to make way for new houses in the capital’s hilltop green belt, and the lack of enforced housing development planning by the government.

Speaking after visiting the bereaved families, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said:  “Yesterday I sympathized with the family of Pa Sorie at Garden Community in Moyeiba; he lost his life as a result of a mudslide during this morning’s downpour.

“After that, I went to the Bankolae community in Cline Town to also sympathize with the families of the 6 other people (a pregnant woman, a man and three children) who died when a wall collapsed on their homes during the rain.

“It was heart wrenching to spend time consoling the bereaved families. I also delivered a small purse of support to the families towards their funeral costs.

“The disasters that continue to destroy lives and properties are mostly the direct result of no land use planning, no building permits and extensive deforestation. I will continue to advocate for the devolution of land use planning, building regulations, and building permits to all local Councils so that construction, especially in hillside communities is better regulated. This will prevent the indiscriminate deforestation and erosion that fills our gutters and waterways with silt every year, causing flooding.

“Our hearts go out to the bereaved families during this tragic moment.”

The former Mayor Yvonne Aki- Sawyer this week informed this medium in an exclusive interview that providing access to water in communities was a priority during her  term in office as Mayor,  adding that during the period she provided over 150 water points (i.e. water tanks, street taps or boreholes) across the city.

She said that an additional 65 water kiosks will be constructed in the coming months.

Aki- Sawyer disclosed that together with the Chief Administrator (CA) at the FCC, Festus Kallay,  FCC  worked with UNOPS on a project to support an informal settlement community in Freetown and introducing the possibility of locating a waste to energy bio digester within that community that had  significantly addressed WASH and sanitation challenges.

She informed that her innovation in the city has created jobs in the city and also providing electricity and compost fertilizer for sale.

According to the former mayor there is need to do more work as a combined team before confirming that FCC can incorporate the waste to energy bio digester into that project but is hopeful that this would happen, with significant improvements being made to the lives of the community residents.

“our work and support of the Freetown Waste Transformers is ongoing as 4 to 5 other waste to energy bio digesters are already scheduled to be installed in Freetown later this year. On 5th January 2022, I launched the Waste Collection Management Association together with the HE Manuel Muller, Ambassador of the European Union in Sierra Leone. In 2019, FCC started the ‘Solid Waste Management through Micro-enterprises’ with funding from the European Union. 60 tricycles and other equipment (wheelbarrows, uniforms etc.) were purchased and 600 youths were trained to become waste collectors. An osusu scheme was created to help them save funds to cover maintenance costs for the tricycles. Over the past three years, the model was replicated with funding from IOM (20 youth groups) and MMC (40 youth groups). They now serve over 50,000 households, a significant increase from the 3,000 households that were being served in June 2018,” she said.

Today, young people totaling over 1,000 have organized themselves to ensure that their businesses grow as they contribute to the cleanliness of the city.

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr went on to reveal that the Chairman of the Waste Collection Management Association Abubakarr Sesay gave an inspiring statement that highlighted the impact on their individual lives as young people now working in the tricycle groups initiated by Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and that statements included stories of personal growth, business growth and young people pursuing educational qualifications including university degrees.

She said that she is very pleased to see the growth and sustainability of this critical component of FCC’s Integrated Waste Management Value Chain.

The former Mayor also said she is aware that many Freetonians have never wondered where their liquid waste goes once their cesspits have been emptied adding that it will surprise many of them to know that, until now, faecal sludge collected in Freetown ended up being indiscriminately released at the Kingtom Dumpsite. She enlightened that the faecal sludge seeped into the sea and nearby waterways, poses significant environmental and health hazards to the surrounding communities asserting that today she is thrilled to launch the first ever faecal sludge treatment plant in Sierra Leone as part of Transform Freetown.

She added that at the plant, the solid matter is separated from the wastewater; that the solid matter would be used as fertilizer input and the wastewater safely disposed of or used in other ways (e.g. To put out fires in the main Kingtom dumpsite).

She went on to intimate that the project is a true testament of what FCC can achieve through partnership and collaboration for which she commended the Sanitation Team for a job well done.

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