Flooding in Sierra Leone – A conversation with WMFSL Director Cami Goble

After some recent flooding in Sierra Leone, we sat down with Cami Goble our Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone Field Director to ask her a few questions.

Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone is located in Freetown. What can you tell us about the history of the city? 

Freetown is coastal with mountains nearby, similar for San Francisco.  Designed by the British, Freetown was planned for 10,000 residents.  During the 10-year-long “Blood Diamond” conflict, more that 1,000,000 people fled to Freetown for safety and economic opportunity.

Do you remember your first experience with flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone?

I remember arriving in Freetown July 2003, wading through flood water on my way to one of our programs.

Has Flooding always been an issue in the community?

Flooding in Freetown has always been a problem.  Sierra Leone gets over 116 inches a rain a year, most of it in July and August.  See the link below for more information.

http://www.freetown.climatemps.com/precipitation.php

What have the rains been like this year? 

We had an unusually wet May this year, with several deluge-like storms.

Aside from heavy rains, are there any additional factors that contribute to the flooding in Freetown? 

When tides are high, and/or there is a lot of rain, the trashy sewage water from 1,000,000 people runs into our friends’ homes.  It is disgusting.  (There is no word strong enough here.)The gutter, sewage, and rubbish collection systems in Freetown leave much to be desired. Many people throw their trash into the rivers and streams in the city, or just dump it in the streets in the middle of the night. There are few easy or economical ways to dispose of one’s trash here.  Can you imagine what it would be like if there were no weekly trash collection in your neighborhood?  What if there were no regularly serviced trash cans in malls or city centers? When the rain comes, it collects all the refuse with it and deposits it into Kroo Bay (lowest lying section of the city–a bay on the waterfront).

Also, there is also a lot of deforestation of the hills above Freetown as people build shanty shacks to live in.  Or they cut down the trees for wood for cooking, or to create charcoal for cooking.  This is still the most common way people cook and feed themselves each day, so you can imagine the demand for wood and charcoal.  All other forms of cooking fuel are too expensive for these people living hand-to-mouth.  So, there is also a lot of dirt that is caught up in the rainwater as well.  This also gets deposited into our friends’ homes.

Have any of the WMFSL facilities been damaged because of the flooding? 

Thankfully there has been no damage to WMF Sierra Leone because of the rain.

Have any of the youth experienced any damage to their homes because of the flooding? 

Every year some of our teens or tutoring children’s homes are washed away in the floods.  We do have a Kroo Bay Emergency Fund that people can donate to, to help these families we are in a relationship with.

It seems like these floods happen every year. What is the government of Sierra Leone doing to prevent future flooding? 

There has been talk of relocating the people of Kroo Bay for as long as I have been here. The problem is, the government wants to move them out of Freetown where there are no facilities (schools, hospitals, etc.) and no easy way to earn an income.  Kroo Bay is in the center of Freetown and there is more economic opportunity, even if it is only selling used clothing from the US or cheap poorly-made goods from China.

Are their many options for those living in the community who want to move away from the flooding? 

There is a huge shortage of housing in Freetown that only compounds the issue. Also, the culture here is that you initially pay rent a year at a time, up front. For many of our friends, they do not have a choice.  They don’t even have enough money to feed themselves every day.   How will they ever be able to save enough money to pay a year’s rent somewhere else?

Watch the video

 

How can people support Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone and the community you serve in Freetown?

The best way to support WMF Sierra Leone is through making a one-time or recurring donation.

We’re also hoping to fill an internship position and several full-time positions. We’d love it if people could share these opportunities with their friends, family members, and church communities.

Community Center Educator – The Community Center Educator will work together with our team of educators to guide children, youth and/or adults in holistic development.

You can see our full-time positions here 

 

 

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