News @ JSI

JSI Mourns Loss of Life in Sierra Leone Mudslide

August 16, 2017

If you would like to contribute to assist recovery efforts, all proceeds will be given to the households and communities that were most affected by this disaster. Please donate online or send checks to JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. at 44 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02210. Please note Sierra Leone Relief on the check.

Online donors should enter reference number: 09201001 and invoice number: 42815 in the appropriate fields.
JSI mourns the devastating loss of life and property in the Sierra Leone mudslide on August 14, 2017. Most JSI staff in Sierra Leone have friends and family harmed by the landslide and flooding, which has killed more than 400 people. According to independent reports, about 40 people are currently hospitalized and approximately 600 people are missing.

The Sierra Leone government has activated the emergency mechanisms that were established with support from donors after the recent Ebola outbreak. Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) emergency operation meetings highlighted the need for immediate response to provide care and support services, and staff and supplies to prevent a cholera outbreak. The Mental Health Committee has dispatched field teams to give residents in affected communities (including Regent, Kamayama, Kanigo, and Pentagon) access to counseling and other mental health services.

These teams are being led by mental health nurses who were trained by JSI’s USAID-funded Advancing Partners & Communities project. These nurses are also providing mental health support in the main hospitals in the capital.

JSI staff are working with the MOHS, the World Health Organization, and other project partners (King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, GOAL, Save the Children, Partners in Health) to determine the most practical ways to get mental health and psychosocial support services to mortuary workers, volunteers, and burial teams in the affected communities.

On August 16, two JSI staff walked through the worst-affected community in Regent to let people know that mental health services are available. Residents expressed fear, grief, and hopelessness because no one who lived within the direct flow of the mud survived and no structures remain.

Military personnel wearing personal protective equipment continue to search for human remains. An older man whose house was adjacent to the landslide described the incident to the JSI team. “All we heard was a big bang, and I came outside to see, and what followed was rushing flood waters that took over, and the ground shaking. It was not until a few hours passed when the fog cleared that we were able to see what actually happened.”

Nongovernmental organizations working in Freetown and Western Area are concerned about threats to public health, especially a cholera outbreak, in the wake of this emergency. Health care workers are being put on high alert and community health workers, recently trained by JSI's project, are about to undergo a refresher training to better respond to affected communities’ needs.

Local JSI staff and their networks have mobilized resources and purchased food items for 100 families that survived and are being housed in a community school. The JSI team distributed water, rice, cans of sardines, tea, and coal for cooking to the families.