Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 December 2017:
Freetown was brought to a standstill on the 14th of August 2017, when a massive mudslide caused by heavy rains after many years of deforestation by illegal settlers, killed about a thousand people and hundreds injured, including children.
Thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds of families now homeless. Although several of those surviving the mudslide have found shelter with extended families, over 200 remain homeless and abandoned by the Koroma government.
Despite millions of dollars donated to the government to provide shelter and help rebuild the lives of survivors, yesterday – 18 December 2017, hundreds of children and adults, including very frail and elderly men and women were thrown into the streets by the government, after closing the temporary camps and centres in which they were being cared for.
As the world watches the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Freetown, questions must be asked about the millions of dollars received by the Koroma government for the mudslide survivors. Not a single Cent has been accounted for.
Two hundred and twenty-three women and children were asked to leave the Catholic Relief Centre of Don Bosco in Freetown yesterday. And it is not clear where these women and children will go, because they have nowhere to live – no food, no shelter, and the children deprived of their education.
The government of president Ernest Bai Koroma promised housing for the survivors few days after the disaster occurred. But hopes of those accommodation coming to fruition have turned into tears for the survivors.
A cash transfer of Five million Leones for each family as emergency support, promised by the government is yet to be paid to survivors.
The director of the Don Bosco Centre told Umaru Fofana that the government has not given the survivors the money received from external donors.
A representative of the Don Bosco Centre at Fort Street in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that up to yesterday, they have been caring for 230 people, majority of whom were children and women – aged from one month to 67 years old.
“We have 146 children who are of school going age – from nursery 1 to SSS 4. They attended schools located in the Don Bosco Fambul Centre vicinity – six altogether. Seventy-two of the adults being cared for at the Centre are family heads. There were fourteen orphans here at Don Bosco, and the majority have lost both parents. A few of them also lost all of their brothers and sisters,” he said.
Responding to this unfolding humanitarian disaster, the opposition National Grand Coalition led by Dr, Kandeh Yumkella, said: “The National Grand Coalition (NGC) notes with dismay, news report that victims of the August 2017 mudslides, who were temporarily housed at the Don Bosco Children’s Home have been forced to vacate the premises because of government’s inability to meet its commitment to the management of the Don Bosco Homes.
“The NGC condemns the insensitivity of the All Peoples Congress (APC) party- led government and total disregard of the suffering and dehumanizing treatment of a segment of our population in distress and in urgent need of assistance including women and children.
“The NGC, therefore, calls on President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government to honour its commitment to Don Bosco by immediately releasing funds promised to the mudslide victims to allow for their continued accommodation pending resettlement.”
Last week, survivors of the mudslide protested at their temporary centre in Juba, after the government’s decision to close the Centre. They said that the government has failed to keep its promise to pay a one-off grant of Le 5million (less than $650).
“Even if they fulfil that promise how much is that worth to take care of us in these difficult times”, one survivor told BBC Umaru Fofanah.
Another survivor said that some of them have only received about Le 1million and were told they had to vacate the temporary shelter without any idea as to where to go next.
An official of the Office of National Security who oversees the government’s response to this tragedy, told Fofanah that they had received instructions to close the camp.
All efforts by the Sierra Leone Telegraph to obtain a statement from the government have failed, as uncertainty about the health and welfare of over 200 survivors of the mudslide and the millions of dollars collected by the government from donors for the survivors, deepens.