February 22, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The September 2015 floods which overran most coastal areas in Freetown caused serious devastation to people and buildings, with coastal slums and residents being the worst affected.
Thousands of residents that were displaced by the flood sought shelter at either the National Stadium or the Brima Atouga Stadium in the west and east of the capital respectively, where they were provided with emergency shelter and food.
A good number of them were dwelling in areas environmental experts say were prone to disaster, with many having lived there for years, despite calls to successive governments to relocate them to safer areas, until the flood struck last year.
The right to shelter is a fundamental human right and it is the responsibility of government to provide basic housing facility for especially poor people.
Ironically, last year’s flood, which caused few deaths and large displacements, created an opportunity for people residing on hill tops and seaside communities to be relocated to safer communities.
Thus, government constructed makeshift structures for victims at a place a called Mile Six, along the Freetown-Masiaka highway.
However, instead of constructing brick houses, government went ahead to erect makeshift houses, similar to what the flood victims had previously lived in.
Some of the relocated flood victims interviewed by Concord Times last week lamented about the poor condition of the houses and the lack of basic amenities in the new settlement.
“I lost all of my belongings during the flood. Some of us do not have money to send our children to school especially when we are no longer doing business because we are staying far away from the central business district,” complained Usman Kamara, a flood victim and father of five, who now resides at Mile Six.
“I am actually disappointed with this arrangement. Only 50 apartment blocks were constructed for us. Some people were given Le200,000 to rent houses, but that is not enough. Sustainability is an important issue, hence people have no option but to return to their previous settlements,” he said.
Another aggrieved relocated flood victim cited the lack of health facility as one of many challenges they are grappling with at the new settlement.
“We have been relocated to a community that lacks proper health facility. We have to travel from here to Freetown to access healthcare service. We are appealing to government and other donor agencies to help us in this drive,” said Joseph Aruna.
Many in the settlement told our reporter they have decided to return to their former settlements in Freetown, where they believe they would easily access amenities that are not available at the new settlement.
Meanwhile, Concord Times observed that Kroo Bay, Susans Bay, Moa Wharf and coastal slum communities that were worst hit by the September 2015 flood remain overcrowded after they were apparently re-occupied by people who had been relocated by the government to Mile Six.
According to our investigation, many non- governmental organisations that were previously providing humanitarian assistance to the flood victims and new settlers have stopped, although no reason has been given.
However, Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Government Spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, insists that the flood victims were transferred to that location after considerations were given to the provision of basic social facilities.
“We have come a long way and government made a lot of efforts to ensure that these people are relocated. In fact, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs is now charged with the responsibility of overseeing that project,” he said.
An official at the Social Welfare Ministry, Francis Kabia, said he visited the area three months ago and that residents raised concerns regarding the absolute lack of basic social amenities, adding that his ministry was not directly responsible for the provision of those facilities, but rather line ministries, including Health and Sanitation, Water Resources, Education, among others.
“We are quite aware of some of these concerns but when the president went there he told them that it was those ministries that should be held accountable,” said Kabia via a telephone interview.