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The Rev. Henry Samuel of Vine Memorial Baptist Church, an affiliate member of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, prays with and consoles a group of women who lost 17 members of their family during the Aug. 14 flood and landslide in in Freetown. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.

Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

The Rev. Henry Samuel of Vine Memorial Baptist Church, an affiliate member of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, prays with and consoles a group of women who lost 17 members of their family during the Aug. 14 flood and landslide in in Freetown.

Church providing emergency health services after mudslide

 

By Phileas Jusu
Aug. 24, 2017 | FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

The Sierra Leone Conference of The United Methodist Church is providing emergency health services for people affected by the landslide and flooding that killed nearly 500 people.

A landslide survivor, Osman Jalloh, was the first to be treated on Aug. 23 after the United Methodist Disaster Response Team set up a booth to provide healthcare.

Jalloh lived on the hillside of Sugar Loaf Mountain and says his building “kind of exploded” when the mud gushed in.

“I was completely covered in mud and by the grace of God, I fought hard and pushed myself forward till my hand showed up in the open. Luckily, a man saw my hand and alerted others. But, he thought maybe I was dead. When he touched my hand, I grabbed his and held on firmly,” Jalloh said.

He said the man called for help and after people pulled him out, they tried to help others with him, but a huge boulder rolled in and covered the spot where they had rescued him.

Jalloh said many were buried alive after the boulder rolled in.

Osman Jalloh receives medical treatment at the United Methodist Disaster Response booth in the Pentagon community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Osman was the only survivor in his home when the building collapsed under pressure from the landslide that killed nearly 500 people. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.

Osman Jalloh receives medical treatment at the United Methodist Disaster Response booth in the Pentagon community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Osman was the only survivor in his home when the building collapsed under pressure from the landslide that killed nearly 500 people. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.

 

“I fell unconscious at that time and was rushed to the hospital. Blood was oozing out of my mouth and ears, I was later told. My family was told there was no bed to accommodate me at the military hospital,” he said. His brother took him to his home, but he came to the emergency center for treatment of wounds and because he is still having internal pain.

“I am very pleased with the treatment I’ve just received. I know that by God’s grace I’ll sleep well tonight,” Jalloh said.

Services are being provided at two centers where survivors are registering — Kamayama and Pentagon.

The United Methodist Disaster Response Team will remain on-site for one month to deliver emergency health services to the people displaced by flooding and landslide.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has given a $10,000 emergency grant to the church in Sierra Leone and is exploring options for responding to the tragedy.

how to help

Donate to the International Disaster Response Advance #982450. Money from this fund is used to respond to disasters around the world. 

United Methodist Communications is collaborating with the Sierra Leone Conference in sending out messages of pastoral assurance as well as health-related information through a SMS texting network. The messages are being sent on behalf of Bishop John K. Yambasu.

In collaboration with the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, pastors will be on-site to address the spiritual needs of the survivors. In addition, the council will be organizing a National Service of remembrance and Thanksgiving at the scene of the landslide at 2 p.m. on Aug. 27. Bishop Yambasu is president of the council.

The Council of Churches is distributing relief items to the people affected by the flood and landslide.

The government’s Office of National Security estimates that about 3,000 lost their homes as a result of the flooding and landslide.

Dr. Omar Lamin, the doctor-in-charge at United Methodist Kissy Hospital, said a strategy must be put in place to monitor and improve sanitation at the centers where survivors are seeking help.

“Looking at the situation now, there is a high likelihood that there will be an outbreak of cholera and other waterborne diseases,” said Lamin, who was deploying staff to support the United Methodist Disaster Response team.

Patients, mainly nursing mothers and pregnant women affected by the Sierra Leone flood and landslide, queue up for health services at the United Methodist Disaster Response booth on Aug. 24 in Freetown. The church medical team will provide free medical services for the displaced for the next month. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.

Patients, mainly nursing mothers and pregnant women affected by the Sierra Leone flood and landslide, queue up for health services at the United Methodist Disaster Response booth on Aug. 24 in Freetown. The church medical team will provide free medical services for the displaced for the next month. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.

 

Lamin said there was need to monitor the use of toilets and water tanks already installed in the centers by other supporting agencies. “There must be a hand-washing station close to the toilets to make sure that everybody going in and out of the toilets wash their hands,” he said. Otherwise, even medical workers and others going into the centers to help could be infected.

About 760 people affected by the flood and landslide were registered at Pentagon Center. Pentagon and other registration centers are crowded, but many of the people who use the facilities are not resident in the centers.

At Pentagon, the center is struggling to cope with one four-seater toilet that agencies working with the displaced at the camp repaired on Aug. 22.  But that is hardly enough to accommodate survivors, workers, volunteers and family members who are at the center.

Ministry of Health officials are preparing for a likely outbreak of diarrhea or cholera owing to the lack of good drinking water in the community, which before now relied on water wells that have now been contaminated by floodwater. The ministry has been sending out sanitation tips on radio, television and social media.

United Methodist Kissy Hospital received three people with diarrhea and has started isolating those cases, Lamin said.

Most of the cases reporting at the Kamayama displaced center are respiratory tract infections – colds and coughs. The United Methodist Church is collaborating with the Caritas (a Catholic relief agency) to deliver health services at that center. The survivors are also complaining of bruises, pain and cold, a Caritas staff member told United Methodist News Service.

Government officials said there is a plan for temporary relocation and the construction of 52 homes in rural Freetown, as well as a long-term housing plan for those directly affected by the flood and landslide. 

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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