Often it is easy to think of those affected by all these events as just numbers, so I would like to tell you about two people who survived the flooding and mud slides in Sierra Leone and what survival means to them. Mariam Sahid Mohamed, a 27-year-old woman, lives in Regent community, located in the western urban area situated upon a small hilly mountain called Mount Sugar Loaf. Early on 14 August 2017, she heard a heavy sound coming from Mount Sugar Loaf just like an earthquake. Then water engulfed the family house and those around her, burying their houses. Just like that. Her sorrow and sadness is immense: 25 members of her family wiped out and killed at once. A part of her is gone with them forever.
Kelly Jalloh, stationed in another province, came home to visit his wife, children, and his brother and sister, seven in all and living together. On the eve of the incident he visited his mother, who lives nearby Regent. He said he was woken by a torrential rain fall before hearing a heavy sound from the mountain that felt as if the world was coming to an end. Immediately after that sound, water started entering into people’s houses and he saw two-storey buildings being buried with people under the ground. Rushing to his family home, he was met by the wailing of neighbors. His house was gone together with his family. Seven of his flesh and blood, ripped from his life and heart. The Sierra Leone YMCA is working hard to respond to the needs of those affected by the disaster alongside the Government and other NGOs. We thank all those who have responded to the appeal for assistance by giving to the response of Sierra Leone YMCA and other organisations.
However even in responding to the needs of those affected, it is important for us to address the systemic challenges that cause us to remain at risk where these crises are concerned. Africa continues to bear the brunt of climate change effects despite our contribution to the challenge being much lower than other continents. The African voice still has very limited influence where climate change discussions and decisions are being held. Our early warning systems are weak, despite the fact that some of these occurrences are common and predictable. In addition, various social economic issues continue to push communities to settle in high risk areas. The result is high number of deaths and losses when natural disasters like the one in Sierra Leone strike.
The terror that ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to cause also needs a stronger response. Young people continue to be the foot soldiers for these groups. Even in Charlottesville, USA, the perpetrators of the violence during the demonstrations were young men. The youth vulnerability to recruitment by these groups, due to their exclusion and civic disengagement, is now more than ever a global issue that needs to be addressed. It is time for action. By all means, we must give to and participate in the response to the effects of climate change and terror attacks, but we must also proactively seek out ways to address the root causes of these persisting issues or else we will be stuck in a vicious cycle of crisis and response.
Africa Alliance of YMCAs