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Little girl surveys the landslide in Sierra Leone

Swept Away

By Ben Cohen | 07 Feb 2019

One man in Freetown, Sierra Leone has his home and livelihood swept away in a mudslide. Tearfund's partners in Sierra Leone help him make a fresh start.

Making a living in one of the very poorest parts of the world is a big achievement. But what if your livelihood was then swept away, literally? What would it take to start it again?         

Makeri looked sad and frustrated as he stood in front of the remains of his home. Making a living in Dwazark Farm isn’t easy but he had managed it. Now everything lay in ruins.

The mudslides had been sudden and devastating. Dwazark Farm is a small but crowded shanty town in the heart of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Thousands of people are packed together, in fragile makeshift homes.

The torrential downpours of August 2017 caused flash flooding. This, in turn, triggered a landslide that eroded over 200 acres of Mount Sugar Loaf, on the outskirts of Freetown.

Terrible toll

It was devastating: 500 bodies were later retrieved from the mud, while hundreds more were never found.           

‘I have lived in this community for so long but I’d never seen such devastation,’ Makeri remembers. ‘My family and I weren’t able to save anything and only had the clothes we were wearing that night.’

‘My family and I weren’t able to save anything and only had the clothes we were wearing that night.’

Along with his home and possessions, his livelihood was also destroyed in an instant. 

I ran a mini-mart in my community. I lost all my stock – retail and wholesale – I literally had nothing to sell.            

‘I was a contented man as I had built my own house. My family were happy with whatever God provided for us. We weren’t rich but I could provide for my family through the business.’                

Makeri’s family had to rely on the hospitality of friends and neighbours to survive, but he had no way to relaunch his business.           

Thankfully the local church, Hill Side Baptist, heard about his plight. The church took charge of registering survivors after the landslide, and the minister, Rev Titus Kamara, was able to offer them a lifeline.            

Through the support of Tearfund’s partners the Baptist Church of Sierra Leone and the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone, Hill Side Baptist was able to give Makeri a modest cash grant. It was enough to help him get back on his feet and start to rebuild his house, as well as buy food and commodities to sell.

Image of the mudslide from a distance

The scene of the devastation in 2017.

‘I believe it was God that crossed my path with the Baptist church and I know that he will see me through.'

‘I was given SLL 1,000,000 [about £110]. My hope is to restart my mini-mart, as it has been my livelihood and I have invested a lot in it. I know it can be done if I am determined.’         

However, he was also offered something even more important by Tearfund’s partners: psychosocial support. As a result, Makeri has been able to come to terms with the trauma of losing everything. And that, every bit as much as the cash, is why he is feeling strong enough to rebuild his life.       

‘I feel good for the cash given but more so for the counselling. It’s good knowing I have people to support me during this difficult phase of my life.

‘I had reached a point where I decided that there was no hope for me. Now, after receiving the cash and counselling sessions, I have hope that I will be able to restart my business and repair my house. And we will be a family again.          

‘I believe it was God that crossed my path with the Baptist church, to help me through this difficult time; and I know that he will see me through. I know I will stand again.’

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Written by Ben Cohen

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