UNDP stands with Sierra Leone in tragic times

Aug 17, 2017

Photo: UNDP disaster expert providing early warning information to help resident move to buffer zones © UNDP Sierra Leone

Following the torrential rains in the early hour of Monday 14th July, 2017 which caused massive mudslide and flooding that lead to the death of more than 400 people, UNDP is responding to the emergency with a dual focus – early recovery and prevention.

Presumed the worst flooding incident in West Africa for almost two decades, the tragedy has affected more than 5000 residents including infants in 16 communities in Freetown. Motormeh, a mountainous community in Regent, adjacent Mount Sugar Loaf, is the worst affected community. 

UNDP was among the first responders in the early hours of Monday morning, when one of our staff who lived near the impacted area called in, screaming on the phone, as the disaster unfolded.

The Environment and Natural Resources Cluster immediately went into full response mode with all its staff moved to the impacted areas in the Regent suburb.

UNDP provided the first basic equipment including 50 shovels, 50 megaphones and 100 pickaxes, to help in the early search and rescue efforts, long before the Caterpillar excavators were brought in.

Rescue efforts are still ongoing with dwindling success of finding survivors as the August torrential rains continue.

UNDP is also supporting the Office of the National Security (ONS)—the body responsible for coordinating disaster response- to strengthen its analytical, information management and coordination role.  UNDP has provided an data analyst that is supporting the Situation Room and will soon deploy a Coordination Specialist to the ONS.

President Koroma has activated level three security alert, the highest security threat alert. So far, it is estimated that 84 women, 109 children, and 105 adult male dead bodies were removed from the rubbles across the 13 impacted communities but this number is expected to rise.

As a joint United Nations support, UNDP participated in the rapid Multi-Sectorial Initial Assessment to map, and analyze urgent needs in the impacted communities to help inform the overall UN intervention.

Alongside the response, UNDP has been advocating for prevention. Together with UNOPS, UNDP has engaged the Environmental Protection Agency to development a prevention roadmap that includes immediate evacuation planning in areas that seem prone to a recurrence of the slide, develop coordinated messaging on prevention, and undertake an in-depth study on the cause of the slide, which many say is the first in 45 years in the country.  UNOPS with support from UNDP is currently undertaking a geo-mapping exercise and UNDP is in discussion to field a geologist to help with the analysis.  

UNDP has constituted its own internal Task Force to lead UNDP’s contribution to these efforts. 

A joint UN assessment team brainstorming on the minor challenges faced during tension in a community at Lumley in west of Freetown.

The Government has announced to bereaved family to go the main referral morgue to identify their loved ones. Burial of unidentified bodies will begin Thursday, August 17, in Waterloo in the outskirt of Freetown.

A seven days mourning period has been announced starting August 15, 2017.  

On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, UNDP has been helping countries recovery following disaster for more than two decades.