Freetown’s Disaster

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a mudslide recently killed up to two hundred people. This is not the first of its kind, with Sierra Leone and close neighbours facing similar issues due to the rainfall in recent months. For instance, Freetown, a city of about 1 million people in the DRC recently experienced the effects of a population explosion due to its large natural harbour, which is in part what caused the disastrous mudslide.

When interviewed by the BBC’s Olivia Auckland, people of Freetown said commented that “it is the highest density of people I have ever seen” and “there are just people everywhere.” This rapid population growth has resulted in slums being built up on the surrounding mountains, river banks, or at the edge of the sea. The people who live here are the ultimate bearers of any human cost. Meanwhile, the wealthy in the city have moved further up mountains, clearing forests and destabilizing the soil, however, the effects of this are not felt by them.

Moreover, Mohamed Bah, Deputy Director of Sierra Leone’s environment protection agency warned of disasters like what happened this week years ago when he told the Standard Times Newspaper that “irresponsible actions taken on the hills will affect the city greatly.” To expand, in 2008, an unjust water report was published by SAGE publications, which found that worsening flooding was going to be a major problem in five African cities that would be caused by four main factors, all four of which were present in Freetown.

Furthermore, Jules Tulba, interviewed in the New York Times, commented on the recent mudslide in the DRC: “The mountain swallowed more than 100 people and destroyed properties and animals…The government promised to do something about it, but nothing has been done.” With that said, the unjust water report makes the point that the poor have few options available to them in order to adapt to the risk of natural disaster. This means that the national government has a role to play in intervening and providing access to options in order to reduce deaths. Unfortunately, in many of these nations, the government does not provide adequate assistance. Thus, what is needed is, such as drainage, housing or, at least, emergency resources is rarely received by the poor in many of these regions. As such, the effects of natural disasters rest heavily on those unable to adapt to changes in the environment, which is oftentimes the poor. However, with the unprecedented rise in global inequality over the last 20 years, combined with climate change, this is only the beginning.

Moreover, international aid is required to avoid disasters such as these. The international community cannot sit by as people, specifically those that are poor and helpless, which is often where the effects of these disasters are felt the most, fall victim to a fate they are unable to avoid. With that in mind, while the disaster in the DRC may have been caused naturally, human intervention may have prevented the severity of its consequences.

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