(Vatican Radio) Sierra Leone has begun burying hundreds of victims of a mudslide that swept away homes on the edge of the capital Freetown. As the burials took place aid workers warned of an impending health crisis caused by about 400 corpses left out in the warm climate.
Meanwhile, food aid is reaching thousands who survived the disaster.
The United Nations World Food Programme is distributing two-week rations of rice, grains,
oil and salt to at least 7,500 people.
More than 3,000 people have been left homeless and in urgent need of food, shelter and healthcare, while another 600 are missing.
Laura Purvis is an Emergency Response Officer with the UK based Catholic relief agency CAFOD, a member of the Caritas Network. She spoke to Lydia O’Kane about the needs on the ground and the threat of disease.
The rainy season in Sierra Leone has been unprecedented, she said, adding that “Freetown has already received triple the usual amount of rain it receives on an average year.”
Purvis also said the immediate needs for the people affected by the disaster are “shelter and protection from the elements, non-food items to help them to be able to recover in the very first stages of the emergency.”
Threat of disease
One of the major concerns for aid agencies on the ground is the threat of diseases such as Cholera. The CAFOD Emergency Response Officer noted that “with the flooding potentially contaminating water sources, potentially that water is going to be dangerous for people. There are concerns about the spread of water borne diseases such as cholera…which will again exacerbate the situation…”
President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared seven days of mourning in the country and appealed for urgent help.