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The family that lost everything in Sierra Leone’s mudslide

©VSO/Evelyn Fey

A mudslide and severe flooding shook Sierra Leone to its core last August, leaving thousands homeless. Alpha Kamara, one of those affected, shares his story.

On 14 August 2017, a mudslide and severe flooding hit Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Following days of torrential rain, a crack in the rockface of Mount Sugarloaf loosened huge boulders, which tumbled down the valley with such force that entire buildings were demolished.

The mudslide and flooding killed 503 people. The 11,000 who lost their homes survived living in camps for months on end. Some people, even now a year has passed, are without permanent homes.

Alpha Kamara, 36, was home asleep when his property, where he was living with his wife and three children, started to flood. One year on, he has returned to see the destruction left behind.

Alpha Kamara’s home was destroyed in the mudslide. Now, he’s trying to build a new home for his family, away from danger.

Alpha’s story

“When I saw the house for the first time after the mudslide, I cried, and my wife was always in tears whenever we’d visit. I have nothing. I am back to square one. 

“There wasn’t a single thing I could salvage from this house. We lost everything. Everything got dirty and spoilt when the place flooded. Everything I now own, my clothes I am wearing, my shoes, my bag, everything was given to me during the disaster response effort.

“I have decided not to live here because it's dangerous, and I love my family, so I don't want to endanger their lives. This place is no longer safe for anybody to live. The government has already advised us to leave this area.”

There wasn’t a single thing I could salvage from the mudslide. We lost everything.

Alpha Kamara

One year on Alpha is rebuilding his home. Over the last year, VSO has supported people like Alpha by:

  • Supplying clean water, soap, and sanitary towels to those placed in camps after the mudslide.
  • Teaching people in 75 communities the early warning signs of disaster, and which hazards they are vulnerable to.
  • Campaigning to stop activities that could make another mudslide more likely, like illegal mining, felling trees and building homes on vulnerable hillsides.
  • Installing 12 handwashing stations in schools, cleaning 11 wells and running a hygiene awareness campaign that has reached 1,700 households. This has helped to prevent disease outbreaks in the months following the mudslide, while people were living in camps.

Alpha’s attention is now on building a new house for his family, away from any hazards, and he is hopeful for the future.

Thanks to our supporters, VSO volunteers are working to make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen again.