Sierra Leone: Following the fire incident at Susan’s Bay that destroyed properties worth millions of Leones, the government of Sierra Leone survey on the impact of the fire through the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has confirmed a total of 3,352 children between ages 0 and 18 were affected by the incident.
The NDMA Director General, Retired Lieutenant General Brima Bureh Sesay, made the disclosure at the Ministry of Information and Communication press briefing in Freetown.
The agency also confirmed that there was no life lost and no child was reported missing resulting from the fire on that fateful night.
The NDMA DG informed journalists that the cluster situation of the community made it impossible for government and outside rescue teams to access the area until the fire broke itself out. He said the outbreak completely destroyed the entire area making it the biggest fire in living memory in Freetown.
The DG said based on records after their joint assessment survey on the impact of the fire on locals in the slum community, in the category of people affected, 3,352 children between 0 and 18, some 140 people living with disabilities, 497 pregnant and lactating mothers, 3,327 between ages 18 and 65, with 76 people over 65 years old.
Lieutenant General (Rtd.) Sesay revealed that 73 per cent of the total affected persons were sleeping outside in the open, while 16 per cent were housed in public buildings including mosques, churches, schools, and healthcare centres among others, with only five per cent still living at home.
He said based on their report, government and partners have constructed 75 pitched family tents, erected 64 makeshift structures, and established seven kitchens providing three hot meals a day for victims, while the World Food Programme (WFP) will embark on direct cash transfers to affected persons.
The Director General said they have also; installed 13 solar light poles in the area, are currently providing food, and engaged in providing WASH support, supply of shelter kits, blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, clothing, and mattresses to the 1,600 affected households. He said all public donations to affected persons are now being directed to the Red Cross “who will get them sorted out and brought to us on site for distribution,” clarifying that all relief items are distributed per household after verification of victims and issuing them receipts.
He said they are planning a transition from emergency response to recovery though fires don’t just ignite, “as there must be some human activities,” against which they have increased their sensitisation to ensure people live well with the environment. He said they are presently looking at various options including removing the people from the slum, taking the slum away from them by restructuring the entire place, or rebuilding it as it was.
He said the survey will also cover all 42 hazard prone areas in Freetown, after which they will advise government appropriately “because relocation is difficult especially in making sure there is a means of livelihood at a proposed site to be relocated.”