Climate Change in West Africa
Woman being consoled after learning about her son's death Source: Reuters

Victims of Sierra Leone’s Mudslide: The Climate Change Discussion in West Africa

Anyone who’s seen the movies Freetown or Amistad, probably has an idea of the importance Sierra Leone played during the Slave trade. The city of Freetown, founded in 1792 for the convenience of transatlantic traders is a city built in the midst of shaky hills; now home to over 800,000 Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life.

The country is one rich in arts and culture, but whose economy is not fully recovered from the 10 year Civil war fueled by greed of the international diamond trade. After the war ended in 2002, a lot of the population remains impoverished. This particular demographic was the worst affected by last week’s disaster, according to BBC.

The mudslide happened in the early hours of the morning on August 14th as people slept, killing over 450 people, rendering hundreds more missing and about 20,000 displaced.

Climate Change in West Africa
image from CNN

Now in the aftermath, mass burials are being carried out to prevent disease outbreaks that could result from leaving decomposing bodies out in the open. Already, the people are facing the threat of cholera and malaria outbreaks from the flood water. The scenes bring to mind flashbacks of 2014 when the city was among the hardest hit by the West African Ebola pandemic.

sierra leonean volunteers after mudslide
image from BBC

Interestingly, this recent disaster didn’t come as a surprise. Several warnings had been given by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Abdulai Baraytay, a spokesperson for Sierra Leone’s president. In his chat with the BBC, he said the EPA had spoken to residents about the danger two weeks earlier and tried to put some trees in but they had been chased away.

This is as a result of widespread ignorance in the region about environmental issues. Sierra Leone is an overcrowded city with the highest rainfall in Africa. This in addition to its high percentages of slums, failed waste/drainage systems, and persistent indiscriminate felling of trees is a recipe for disaster. After last months catastrophe, the region still remains at risk of more mud slides.

Apparently, it’s not just Sierra Leone that should be concerned, but a whole chunk of West Africa. The 2009 Unjust Water report found examples of worsening floods in Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya.

Recently, Nigeria seems to be joining this subset of flood prone regions. The Benue flood of last week has been said to have rendered 100,000 homeless and poses a serious threat to the nation’s food availability for the remainder of the year.

This is coming on the heels of the July Lagos floods, which were argued to be the result of inadequate drainage systems.

Knowledge they say is power, but that depends on how it is put to use. Will these tragedies attract more focus from citizens of West African countries towards Climate change and environmental policies? What do you think?

How You can Help Now

The survivors of these tragedies need your help! Very Little can go a long way. Below are the  Links to donate:

Sierra Leone




Ada Okoli

Sometimes I write. Sometimes I think about writing.

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