A delegation from the Constituency for Africa met today the Sierra Leone Ambassador to Washington, The Hon. Bockari Stevens and his senior staff, to discuss the tragic mud-slide that occurred during heavy rains in the capital Freetown on Monday. The meeting took place in the Sierra Leone Embassy located in Northwest Washington. More than 800 people, including many women and children, have now been declared dead by the Sierra Leone government thus far from the tragedy, and more than 1,000 more are still listed as missing. Against Sierra Leoneon culture, some 400 people were buried in mass graves yesterday and another 400 are being buried today. Hundreds more have been hospitalized and another 1,500 were rendered homeless from the disaster. With the prospects for cholera and other water-borne diseases so prevalent in such disaster situations, the Sierra Leone government has decided to forgo ritual burial processes and have buried the dead as quickly as possible.
Joining CFA’s President Melvin Foote for the meeting were, Victoria Gregg, a film documentary producer, Charles Sharp, the President of the Black Emergency Managers Association (BEMA), Jeannine B. Scott, who is a Member of the CFA Board of Directors, Janette Yarwood, who is the Legislative Director for Africa for Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Sub-Committee on Africa, and Robert L. Mallett, the President of the relief and development agency Africare.While it is far too early to determine the exact cause of the horrific disaster in Freetown, for sure the over-cutting of trees and resultant soil-erosion over time, overpopulation of the area, and climate change manifestations, were all mitigating factors in this large-scale mud slide.Melvin Foote signs the “Book of Condolences” for those who died in Freetown on MondayThe Government of Sierra Leone has put out an international appeal for assistance to address the crisis. Many neighboring countries have already begun to respond with assistance, and international partners including the United States are now considering assistance for Sierra Leone.CFA’s President Melvin Foote was pleased with the meeting with the Sierra Leone Ambassador today. Said Foote, “Without question CFA “must” respond to the crisis in Sierra Leone. We will do what we can to press the US Administration to respond to the immediate crisis in Sierra Leone, and also inform and press African-Americans and the Diaspora to also do what we can to generate a significant response”. He further went on to say that unfortunately the American public has not been properly informed about the scope and scale of the Freetown tragedy. “The western media has been largely silent about the Sierra Leone tragedy, and instead has been focused on domestic priorities” said Foote.