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Volunteers unloading relief items at Braima Attouga Stadium in eastern Freetown. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

Volunteers unloading relief items at Braima Attouga Stadium in eastern Freetown. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

Church leaders offered prayers and words of consolation to flood victims at the National Stadium. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

Photo by Phileaus Jusu, UMNS

Church leaders offered prayers and words of consolation to flood victims at the National Stadium. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS

Severe flooding on Sept. 16 damaged homes and property in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Photo courtesy of Cocorioko, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Cocorioko, Creative Commons

Severe flooding on Sept. 16 damaged homes and property in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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Council of Churches helps Sierra Leone flood survivors

By Phileas Jusu
Oct. 16, 2015 ǀ FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

The Council of Churches in Sierra Leone has distributed relief supplies including food and health kits to about 5,000 flood survivors who – three weeks after devastating floods – are still living in the National Stadium in western Freetown and Braima Attouga Stadium in eastern Freetown.

The donations came mainly from Christian World Service and The United Methodist Church through the Sierra Leone Conference.

The government is still trying work out ways to relocate families left homeless by the Sept. 16 flood that swept away hundreds of homes and damaged others in the capital city of Freetown. At least four people died.

Victims occupy offices of the National Stadium, with the few belongings they were able to carry with them on the day of the heavy downpour that caused the floods. The offices are littered with mattresses, rubber buckets, children’s clothing and toys, and more – anything people could grab as they fled their homes.

The Sierra Leone Government has promised to relocate the victims to a community in the east of the city, but some local press reports have questioned how soon that will happen.

Police and the military, along with vigilant Ebola response personnel, greet people at the gate of the National Stadium. Their questions range from “Can I help you sir?” to “Can you please wash your hands, ma?” Sierra Leone is two weeks into the 42-day countdown for the World Health Organization to declare the country Ebola free.

Apart from the offices now used as sleeping places, extra booths have been erected by UKaid, UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Response Center in the main bowl of the stadium. These serve as makeshift offices or health centers for the sick.

‘Fast-track’ relocation

United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu, who was elected president of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone in September, was away in the U.S. during the relief efforts. The Rev. Osman Fornah of the Wesleyan Methodist Church delivered relief items on behalf of Bishop Yambasu.

Mrs. Ebum James Dekam, Council of Churches general secretary, said the gifts were more for the children, who are by far more vulnerable than the adults.

Fornah called for fast-tracking the relocation process.

“We will speak to the decision makers to ensure that the process of relocation is speeded up so that people will return to normal lives,” Fornah said in an address at the National Stadium.

The Rev. Gbokowai Speck, head of the West Africa Methodist Church in Sierra Leone and past president of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, prayed for God’s presence among the victims throughout their stay, asking God to see them through the challenging moment they were going through.

At the Braima Attouga Stadium in eastern Freetown on Oct. 5, the council group donated 30 containers of food and 10 boxes of health kits. They prayed for the workers and asked God to grant them the strength and peace required. They prayed for God to protect the flood victims from disease while they wait for relocation.

Church gives hope

There are sanitizing buckets at the entrance of every booth for occupants and visiting relatives to wash their hands before entering the booths. As at the National Stadium, armed police and military personnel at the entrance check every vehicle and screen everybody entering the stadium.

Samson Kabia, head of the camp and Director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, welcomed the Council of Churches team and said the ministry provides social services to people in the country. He said faith is best expressed in charitable works and was happy to see that the council doing just that.

Kabia was pleased to say that religious groups have donated hugely to the flood victims since his ministry set up the camp. He said that is not surprising given the past history of religious leaders helping people. He cited intervention during the Sierra Leone civil strife in the 1990s and during the recent Ebola outbreak.

Jusu is a communicator for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org