I have been following with a heavy heart the destruction that severe flooding has caused to many homes, communities and lives across the country. In the Northern Province, there were reports of flooding in parts of Makeni; in the Southern Province there have been reports of flooding in parts of Bo District and in the Eastern Province there have been reports of flooding in parts of Kenema District. Very recently, in the Western Area, the flooding has caused unprecedented destruction and havoc for communities and families causing deaths and leaving homeless vulnerable people like children, women and those physically challenged.
Let me start by expressing my condolences to the families and friends of loved ones who have passed away as a result of the flooding disaster. May their gentle souls rest in peace. Let me also extend my sympathy to those who have lost properties and implore them to be resilient and hope for better days ahead however challenging their present circumstances may be.
There can never be a worst time for such disaster to hit communities and compatriots who have already been devastated by the Ebola outbreak. As a nation, our resilience has been tested before but we have always pulled together and helping one another because we are a compassionate society.
In June 2015 in a speech I gave in London to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora, I spoke about my fundamental belief in some universal truths in this world which we must learn to uphold dearly not least of which is: “I am my brothers and sisters’ keeper. And you, my brothers and sisters keep me.” Since the flooding and across the country especially in the Western Area many citizens continue to show solidarity and render humanitarian support to the victims of the flood.
I equally want to commend both local and international non-governmental organisations and our development partners for the tremendous support they continue to give to the flood victims. We will always be grateful to them for supporting some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society in difficult times.
Our nation has shown the world there is a common humanity which binds us together and cuts across politics, tribes, regions and backgrounds. Therefore, in the spirit of national unity in the face of such destruction to homes, communities and lives, I call on Sierra Leoneans to support the government as the country prepares for more heavy rains and the nation responds to the tragic plights of the flood victims.
To the executive and legislature, let me remind you, natural and man-made disasters are shocks that are creating a new poor group in our country. It is a must that we have in place a robust institutional framework that is capable of detecting, preventing and mitigating the impacts of disaster when once they occur. We need to review the current institutional arrangements in place to manage disasters.
Concretely, I suggest we put in place a separate entity with adequate funding and human resource capacity with responsibility for coordinating and managing disasters across the country. The framework should also remove all ambiguities and define clearly roles of existing national institutions including Office of National Security (ONS), National Commission for Social Acton (NaCSA), Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, among others consistent with their current mandates.
I also entreat the government to lead the design and implementation of a 10-15 year bi-partisan National Housing Programme. This programme should aim at relocating our people from unsafe and disaster vulnerable communities to safe areas in line with international best practice while we continue with our long-term strategy of addressing the rapid growths of our urban communities.
Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio SLPP Presidential Candidate (2012) Currently, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnoral Ferguson Centre for African Studies, University of Bradford, United Kingdom.
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