Kroo Bay is one of the poorest slums in West Africa — over 10,000 people crammed into a jumble of tin shacks and rough concrete dwellings on the shores of the Atlantic in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Among the mounds of garbage and human waste, everyday life there is perilous, with regular flooding and rampant diseases. This area was one of the worst hit during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015. In the early hours of March 5th, a fire in one of the dwellings rapidly spread through the neighborhood, forcing families to flee from their homes. Nearly 500 dwellings were destroyed.
“There were families sleeping on the burnt ruins of their homes.”
Concern’s Program Manager in Freetown is Eoin O’Donnell. “We had to respond and quickly before the monsoon rains came — there were families sleeping on the burnt ruins of their homes.” Concern has worked in Kroo Bay for years and has a strong connection with the community. Sourcing money from a humanitarian fund, the Sierra Leone team moved quickly to get a reconstruction project under way.
“We put a plan together with the local government and community and moved over 500 tons of building materials, much of it carried to the site by hand, over a two week period,” according to Eoin. Because of the terrain, the affected area was particularly difficult to access, making the task extremely challenging. Construction materials used included zinc sheets for walls and roofing, bush sticks for structural support, timber, nails and cement.
“Overexcited at the complete support given to our community.”
In all, 426 homes were rebuilt, benefiting nearly 1,400 people who had been sleeping rough. 600 of them were children. The construction work was done by local people. Veronica Williams, a single mother-of-four who “lost everything” in the fire, said she was “overexcited at the complete support given to our community.”
Last year, Concern teams around the world responded to over 60 local emergencies, ranging from floods and landslides to fires and storms. Each country team has an emergency plan, with staff trained and primed to take action when needed.