By M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The flooding that took place within the Freetown Municipality following a heavy downpour on Wednesday 16th September, 2015 was the first of its kind in decades. The magnitude of the devastating effects of the flooding to families and properties seems unprecedented as many lives were lost, and properties destroyed, thereby rendering thousands of poor Sierra Leoneans homeless.
But not surprisingly, most of the areas that were affected by the flooding are slummy settlements along the coastal areas in the municipality. It is sad that the torrent killed at least fifteen people, wounding scores and displacing more than five thousand people from their flood-affected homes.
As a responsible Government, the Koroma-led administration responded promptly by, first and foremost setting up emergency settlements at the Siaka Stevens Stadium at Brookfields and the Brima Atouga Mini Stadium at Cline Town for the flood victims. The Government also provided them with medical facilities and ensured that they get three meals a day with abundant water.
By and large, the Government is striving extremely hard to provide basic needs for the people severely affected by the flooding and at the same time very appreciative of individuals, different groups and organizations complementing its effort in helping the victims.
And it is against the backdrop of striving to provide the basic needs of people severely devastated by the flooding that Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh on Tuesday 22nd September, 2015 officially launched the Flood Response Account at the Rokel Commercial Bank towards Government’s efforts in helping the flood victims.
During the launching of the account, the Vice President said the bank account is aimed at providing a platform for philanthropists at home and abroad to donate to flood victims, so that government can use the money to provide permanent structures for the people who would be relocated to safer areas. The country’s second –in- command did not only call on the public to contribute to the Flood Response Account with whatever donation, but also appealed to donors to contribute towards the account so that the people affected by the flooding would be assisted with their basic needs.
However, the launching of a bank account will help Government in getting more funds to provide permanent settlements for the flood victims that would be relocated to safer areas in the Western Area. Those efforts of Government, I have learned, have started yielding fruits through the response of individuals, different groups and organizations; though more needs to be done in helping the flood victims.
One thing I have learned from the quick response to flood victims in Sierra Leone is that Sierra Leoneans always unite during crisis period such as the flooding which is a natural disaster. Since the flooding, individuals, different groups and organizations – including business houses – have donated money, medicines, food and non-food items to the victims through the Government of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leoneans and Sierra Leonean groups and organizations abroad are also responding to the basic needs of the flood victims through donations. Some are making the donations through our respective Missions around the world, such as the Sierra Leone Embassy in the United States of America.
According to report, Sierra Leonean Community heads and some members of Community based organizations recently met with officials of the Sierra Leone Embassy to find a way to assist in the ongoing relief efforts regarding the flood victims. Ambassador Bockarie Kortu Stevens, who served as Chairman, was reported to have assured the attendees of transparency and accountability.
He reportedly promised that names and amounts contributed by individuals, groups or group of people would not only be made public, but would also be attached to their respective contributions and be published on the Embassy website.
If patriotic Sierra Leoneans at home and around the world could complement the efforts of Government in helping the flood victims with permanent structures for relocation, I am sure that would save more lives in the future, when all slum dwellers would have moved to safe areas free of flooding.
But I will advise that Government officials handling contributions of donations towards helping the flood victims should replicate the good example of Ambassador Bockarie Kortu Stevens in order to avoid corruption. There should be transparency and accountability in contributions towards aiding Government’s efforts in helping the flood victims. We have learned from past experience how some officials were accused of failing to properly account for donations or contributions towards the Ebola fight. And there should not be a repeat of this in efforts to restore the dignity of the flood victims.
It also unfortunate to learn that some people who were not affected by the flooding have infiltrated the genuine flood victims in order to benefit from what Government and other philanthropists are providing for the real flood victims. This deceitful act has been reported in many of our local tabloids.
That is why I believe that Government should embark on thorough verification of registered flood victims in order to weed out imposters from the registration lists, so that Government’s efforts in helping the flood victim would not be fruitless. I’ll therefore suggest that those using the plight of their fellow compatriots as an opportunity to access the facilities meant for them must be brought to book, if caught during verification exercise.
By and large, the Government has demonstrated to the world that the welfare of its citizenry always takes priority over any other issue. And Sierra Leoneans, at home and around the world have also demonstrated that they are always united during national crisis. Such understanding makes us a great nation on earth.