UN agencies respond to the landslides

Following the devastating floods and landslides in Freetown on August 14th, which left hundreds of people dead and destroyed thousands of homes, the Government of Sierra Leone, the United Nations and other partners are working together to respond to the crisis.

Almost ten days into the response, the initial emergency phase, focusing on care for the wounded, body recovery and safe and dignified burials, is now gradually shifting to a heightened surveillance, infection prevention and control phase. The response includes efforts on health, food security, water and sanitation, child protection and social mobilization.

To prevent the contamination of water sources and epidemics, actions related to water and sanitation are being undertaken. Public health risks exist from flooding of wells and latrines, proliferation of mosquitoes as well as water borne diseases. For example, the World Health Organisation, who is leading the health partners’ response, is supporting the Ministry of Health for increased surveillance preparedness for malaria and UNICEF continues to support the provision and delivery of water to the affected communities.

UNICEF is also continuing to provide infection prevention, control materials and essential medicines to the four main hospitals in Freetown, and they have opened child friendly spaces for children affected by the disaster.

To meet the urgent needs for food in the areas affected by both landslides and flooding, WFP has reached almost 2000 households with food and nutition support. Furthermore, UNFPA is ensuring protection and support is provided to vulnerable women such as lactating mothers, pregnant women and teenagers. This is done through the provision of psycho-social counselling, health advice and provision of dignity kits.

In addition to the immediate crisis response, the UN is working to support government long term. Experts on early recovery, urban planning and sustainable development are teaming up to help build back better. That means permanent solutions for those living in high risk areas.