About three months ago, a deadly duo of flash floods and mudslides, triggered by unseasonal non-stop rain, rushed through Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. More than 5,900 people were affected by this disaster, at least 500 were declared dead and hundreds more are still missing. Rise Against Hunger collaborated with Caritas Freetown, our in-country partner, to provide immediate relief in the form of 66,500 meals to those affected.
The story of the flood begins for Adama* when she received an urgent call. She shared, “My uncle called and told me that our whole house is surrounded by water.”
She had stayed the night before at her sister’s apartment out of town. She visited so her sister could braid her hair, but by the time the plaits were finished, it was too dark to comfortably make her way home in Freetown. She took her sister’s invitation to spend the night.
She returned home with her sister in the early dawn to find her aunt and uncle floundering in the floodwaters. As much as they tried to reach out, it was at the risk of their own lives. The water was impassable. They felt useless, sitting on the sidelines as their family struggled to stay alive, but there was nothing they could do.
“I saw my uncle and aunty fighting for a way to escape from the water. We were just looking at each other crying holding our hands close to our chest.”
The current ripped at the house, breaking it down bit by slow bit like a cold countdown.
She said, “My family [members] were waving the last goodbye.”
“Their hands up fighting for life,” is the last memory she has of her aunt and uncle before she collapsed in shock. She told this part of the story in tears. As she came to, she realized the flood that taken her relatives, and they were gone.
“How painful it is to watch your loved ones lose their lives,” she says.
Adama’s family was just one of the many to lose loved ones. Her husband spent the rest of that morning working with the help of others to prevent others from sharing similar fates, nearly losing his own life in the process. Adama and her husband, sister, and child joined other evacuees as they were escorted to a compound where they received Rise Against Hunger meals from Caritas Freetown.
Adama was one of the fortunate ones. Sabatu* was also affected by the flood, but she shared a heavier-hearted tale.
“It is something that I don’t want or wish to remember as the pain is still fresh in my heart,” she said.
Sabatu lost her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, not to mention her home, in the disaster. Hunger challenged her first, unable to find food, but she held on, buoyed by the love and concern she felt for her surviving grandchild.
“Help if not me but my grandchild,” she said.
They found food, shelter, and support from the local government and Caritas Freetown, but the hopelessness and debilitating hunger she felt remains fresh in her mind. Now, there’s a sliver of optimism, some hope to hold onto, despite the uncertainty they face.
The Rise Against Hunger meals “add some magic,” she said. “We can survive.”
Emergency relief not only saves lives but catalyzes the journey forward. Relief and recovery from disasters like this requires partnership, between people affected, first responders, local and national governments, organizations and individuals like you. Join in now and donate to the Global Emergency Relief Fund or host a Meal Packaging Event to continue to meet the immediate needs of people like Adama, Sabatu and their families.
*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.