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  • Southside

Southside aid worker leads inferno rebuild in Sierra Leone

Friday, 2nd August, 2019 1:00pm
Southside aid worker leads inferno rebuild in Sierra Leone

Concern Worldwide staff Aminata Musa-Phorah, Eoin ODonnell and Dan Otieno at a distribution point near the fire affected site.

Southside aid worker leads inferno rebuild in Sierra Leone

Concern Worldwide staff Aminata Musa-Phorah, Eoin ODonnell and Dan Otieno at a distribution point near the fire affected site.

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A SOUTHSIDE aid worker has led a major rebuild of 426 homes after massive fire destroyed a large part of a city slum in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Hundreds of residents in the Kroo Bay coastal community in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Africa’s west coast, took part in the emergency housing response led by Concern, which saved 1,385 people, including 601 children, from having to sleep rough.

Concern’s Eoin O’Donnell, from Dublin, who managed the project, said almost everyone moved into their new homes within two weeks, when the main body of the structures, the walls and roofing, were finished.

He said Concern staff then spent about nine more weeks giving follow-up support to the community and helping residents make finishing touches to each property, like completion of works to doors and windows.

 “Almost everyone moved back in directly from when the structures went back up, which was in one to two weeks,” said Eoin, who is Concern’s Programme Manager for Sierra Leone.

 “We had to respond and quickly before the monsoon rains came. There were families sleeping on the burnt ruins of their homes.

 “Heavy rains were due and this was an area that was extremely difficulty for any vehicle to access – so the task was very challenging.

 “We put a plan together with the local government and community and moved over 470,000kg, or 81 truckloads, of building materials, much of it carried to the site by hand, over a two-week period starting on St. Patrick’s Day.”

 The total rebuild cost came to €190,264, or an average of €446 per home, which was donated by The Start Fund, a humanitarian emergency response funding pool supported by Ireland and other European governments.

 Eoin said building materials used included zinc sheets for walls and roofing, bush sticks for structural support, timber, nails and cement.

 Victims of this sudden homeless crisis in Kroo Bay registered their details with Concern who then provided them with the “shelter kits” they needed to rebuild. They were trained and helped by the aid agency’s staff and members of the community throughout the construction project.

 The rebuild was in response to an inferno that swept through the Kroo Bay community on March 4, destroying hundreds of homes.

 Incredibly, there were no reported deaths from the blaze with just three people sustaining minor injuries. Officials investigating the fire believe it was caused by a mosquito coil, which is a curled aromatic incense stick that is lit to release insect repelling smoke.

 The fire made headlines in the UK on March 10 when Britain’s Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, spoke of her devastation for the over 1,000 people affected just weeks after she had visited the impoverished area where she said many make a living looking for valuables in a vast rubbish 

Kroo Bay slum residents sleeping on what remained of their town after the March 4 fire.

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