Sierra Leone is in the news again. Barely through the worst of the Ebola crisis, this beautiful West African country is now battered by rains, floods and landslides, causing devastating damage to lives and livelihoods across the country and in Freetown, the country’s capital.
There are people who have lost their homes and some even their lives (as at 18 September there are 45 dead in Freetown). I recall the picture I took earlier this year in Freetown–showing colourful houses lined up on the hills of this historically important town; and am desperately trying not to picture what would have happened to these lodgings as they were battered by storm or heavy rain. And these are not even the weakest and most vulnerable homes in Freetown. What may be happening in more remote rural communities does not bear thinking about.
As if Ebola was not already enough. The country has still not reached 0 cases in the ebola crisis. People’s livelihoods and income generation opportunities are precarious and making ends meet is challenging at the best of times. The health service infrastructure was already weak before Ebola hit, and is now even more shaken; basic services have been struggling to cope and people are only just beginning to get their lives back together again. It is only recently that people started thinking about priorities post- Ebola. For example, Christian Aid’s country team in Sierra Leone has just adjusted its country strategy to the post- Ebola context and was making plans for people to take much needed leave to rest after the Ebola emergency. How can they now deal with this, on top of everything else?
One of my colleagues from Sierra Leone was in the office in London the other day. He looked sad and exhausted. Sometimes it is so easy to forget that Ebola and disaster generally is not just about numbers; it means people have lost friends or relatives; that they risk losing their homes or livelihoods if they have not already lost them. And all of this affects staff of relief and development agencies as much as it does anyone else. However, for them in particular, disaster also means they have to stay strong to do a job, continue working so that they can help others when they themselves probably need support, someone whose shoulder they can cry on. Their resilience is actually incredibly–and humbling.
I feel unbearably sad about this new tragedy for a country which is already battered by suffering and hope that when I travel to Sierra Leone in early October , I will be able to make time and space to speak love and encouragement into people’s lives…….because that is probably so much more important right now than the donor reports and other work related tasks that I am going out there to complete.
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