Two African Nations Devastated by Huge Mudslides

Large mudslides recently hit two African nations, causing tremendous loss of life and property damage — but they’ve been largely invisible in the media. Natural disasters like these can come with added complications in communities with high poverty and limited safety requirements for construction, compounding their already significant effect.

We’ve rounded up some key points about the natural disasters so you can stay informed — and help these countries recover.

Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, a West African nation, heavy rain triggered a mudslide in Regent, a region just next to Freetown, the country’s capital. The slide took out part of Mount Sugarloaf, a local landmark, and the churning mess of mud, trees and pieces of houses carried some victims all the way to the ocean.

The estimated death toll stands at approximately 500, though many people remain missing — and may not be recovered. Another 20,000 have been displaced because their homes were destroyed or they were ordered to evacuate.

Many families were asleep when the mudslide hit, one reason it was so devastating. And the natural disaster struck a low-income community with crowded, inadequate housing, only compounding the problem.

Sierra Leone is also still recovering from the Ebola outbreak, which damaged the nation’s medical infrastructure and pushed its resources to the limit.

Emergency housing is a big concern, along with food supplies, but aid groups also warn that clean water could become a pressing challenge very soon. After all, disease associated with unsafe drinking water water often emerges in the wake of natural disasters — like the cholera outbreak in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

In the short term, Sierra Leone needs help with temporary housing, food distribution and water supplies. But in the long term, the nation will need assistance rebuilding. Policies that have historically allowed inadequate housing in low-income communities should also be addressed.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Meanwhile, heavy rains and flooding elsewhere in Africa led to a similar disaster. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, located in Central Africa, approximately 200 people are believed to be dead in a fishing village. It’s been difficult to assess the site due to a combination of bad weather and inaccessibility, with some victims likely submerged in a nearby lake.

Rescue operations in this area are made even more complicated by the fact that the nation is struggling with a hunger crisis.

Almost 8 million people in the DRC experience severe food insecurity, and disasters like this one can put strain on overstretched social resources. As in Sierra Leone, the mudslide’s impact may have been worsened by crowded, inadequate housing. Deforestation may be a factor as well.

Some governments, including Ghana, Israel, the UK and Turkey are sending aid to Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the United Nations is on the ground in both regions. NGOs like the Red Cross, Tearfund, WorldVision, Save the Children and Cafod are also responding to provide services to affected communities.

But this natural disaster wasn’t entirely unpredictable. Officials had warned of unsafe housing, but they also failed to alert members of the public when foul weather and flooding increased the risk of landslides. Both nations have experienced unusually wet conditions that may be the result of climate change.

By lobbying for improved policy, we must reduce the strain on developing nations that bear the brunt of our inaction on environmental and public health challenges.

Photo Credit: DFID/Flickr

47 comments

Marie W
Marie W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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heather g
heather gabout a year ago

Yes, and the injustice of their situation is that they are not worsening climate change in these countries - but bear the consequences. Canadian TV very rarely covers any African news - it just doesn't exist for them.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Very sad, as well as the floods in India.

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

So sad and horrible Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

Very sad Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

So sad Thank you for caring and sharing

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Colin C
Colin Cabout a year ago

So sad

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Kay M
Kay Mabout a year ago

sad

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Winn A
Winn Aabout a year ago

So sad for these people. :-(

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

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