Fire in Freetown

Last week a fire in Freetown left thousands of people homeless. The area was densely populated and the buildings were makeshift.

SLIP extends sympathy to President Bio, the Mayor Ms.Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and the people of Freetown Sierra Leone on the tragic loss of life and homes in the Susan’s Bay area..We hope that the young children, girls and boys, will be brought to safety and that all the people suffering loss of their homes be provided with food,clothing and shelter as soon as possible.
If you wish to donate to Irish agencies working in SL the following are the website addresses :https://donboscofambulsl.org/
https://www.trocaire.org/
https://www.concern.net
https://www.goalglobal.org


Research on returned Irish Missionaries.

Irish Missionaries have been involved for over 150 years in Sierra Leone. Many religious have devoted all or part of their lives in helping the people. Recently researchers in NUI Galway have been working to meet and interview as many returned Missionaries as possible in order that their story may be told. The researchers Prof. Ricca Edmondson and Dr. Carmel Gallagher have conducted 11 interviews to date with two more to be scheduled. They have interviewed a good mix of males and females from a variety of Orders but would like to talk to more. The interviews are carried out by Zoom and so far have been successful in recording the story of these dedicated people. The following letter gives more information:

Letter of invitation to AMRI members

Research study: Intercultural Dilemmas: Voices of Retired Missionaries

This is an invitation to people who have worked as missionaries to take part in a qualitative research study underway on the work and experiences of Irish missionaries, chiefly those who have returned to live in Ireland. Ethical approval for this study has been received from the Research Ethics Committee in NUI, Galway.

The main focus of the research is to allow missionaries to tell their individual stories of their missionary work and lives. Missionaries possess unique insights and often we do not hear the voices of missionaries themselves – what they have learned, the kind of people they are, how they have changed and adapted, and the challenges of living in the societies from which they set out.

Returned missionaries have, we believe, several vantage points from which to communicate their understandings, having worked across cultures and over a time period when significant changes have occurred in the Catholic Church, Irish society and in mission work itself.

The research centres on open-ended conversational interviews, mostly with returned or retired missionary priests, nuns and brothers, but also former clerics and lay people who have worked as missionaries, or others with various forms of relevant experience. These conversations will initially be conducted via zoom or skype and, when the Covid situation allows, in face-to face meetings.

The first invitation to participate in this research, issued last December, resulted in considerable interest, and interviews have already been conducted with men and women from different Orders and with diverse missionary experiences. These interviews were all conducted via zoom and were extremely insightful and, we believe, a positive experience for the participants. We now seek further participants for this research study.

Participation in the research is, of course, entirely voluntary and people are encouraged to request further information before deciding to take part. Unless they prefer to be identified, interviewees will remain anonymous in the final report. If details of a person’s work might reveal who they are, the authors will consult with respondents to remove selected details from the final report. The interviews will be recorded, and transcripts of interviews will be sent to the interviewees to enable them to respond to the transcripts or to clarify any points they may have made.

It is expected that each interview will last at least an hour. There are no fixed, predetermined questions and no right answers. Rather, each interviewee will determine the direction of the interview and each interview will be unique to that person. The interviewer will introduce certain topics and themes but will mostly listen and encourage reflective conversation. Topics will typically include interviewees’ early years, their work and experiences, events and people that influenced them, challenges and changes over their life course, what they have learned, opportunities to share their experiences, and their perspectives on changes and ethical decision-making in Irish society.

The researchers who will themselves conduct the interviews are both retired academics who have a particular interest in the topics and questions of this study. They are active researchers on topics related to ageing and values, community and participation, as well as wisdom and interculturality. Their hope is to capture the voices and views of returned and retired missionaries within the framework of an academic study.

It is anticipated that the study participants will centrally comprise a varied group of returned missionaries from a number of different orders, societies and institutions, both large and small in terms of missionary focus. It is also intended to include people with diverse experiences in different continents and countries. We are also interested in speaking to people who have continued to live in the country in which they worked as a missionary.

Further information and details of the study will be sent to anyone who expresses interest. We would be delighted to hear from you.

If you are interested in taking part in this research, please contact Professor Ricca Edmondson or Dr Carmel Gallagher by email at the contact details below:

Ricca.edmondson@nuigalway.ie Carmel.gallagher@tudublin.i

Fire in Freetown.

The following article by Sally Hayden, was published in the Irish Times on Friday 26th March 2021.

A fire broke out on Wednesday night at Susan’s Bay slum in Freetown. As many as 5,000 people have been left homeless. More than 80 people injured in crowded part of Sierra Leone capital

The day after a devastating fire in a Freetown slum, which displaced as many as 5,000 people, residents were reduced to selling the ashen remains of their homes for scrap metal.

Yealimamy Bangura piled up what was left of her roof and walls, before encouraging her six children to beat it into shape. She would sell it for 1,500 leones per kilo (12c) – about 35,000 leones (€2.91) in total – providing something to sustain them as she contemplated what to do next.

The fire broke out at about 6pm on Wednesday, quickly tearing through Susan’s Bay, which was packed with homes and people, while fire services were effectively unable to respond. It was visible from across the city.

“The entire community has been burnt to the ground,” said Freetown’s mayor, Yvonne Aki- Sawyerr, in a statement posted to Facebook. “There was no access for the fire service. A six-storey building under construction . . . blocked what access there previously would have been.

“Disaster risk reduction cannot happen without effective urban planning and a building permit regime which is focused on reducing environmental and man-made risks,” she added. “Please join us in praying for the victims.”

Survivors described sprinting and screaming as they fled the flames, some carrying whatever belongings they could and others only the clothes they wore. Residents close to the sea boarded fishing boats, rowing out from the coast to escape.

“I couldn’t do anything, I just grabbed all the children to secure their lives. It was commotion,” said Isatu Kabia (60). “I have no idea what caused the fire. The fire brigades couldn’t get down here and it burnt for hours. “

Kabia lived across 19 rooms with more than 60 relatives. Everything was destroyed. Yesterday afternoon, they crouched together under black plastic bags, held up by wooden sticks. One woman displayed burns across her legs, saying she had been treated by a medical worker that morning.

“I have no clothes. I am trying to ask for help from the government,” Kabia said. “I never imagined something like this would happen.”

According to Sierra Leone’s Red Cross Society, more than 80 people were injured but no one was thought to have died.

“This is one of the disaster- prone communities,” said Sinneh Mansaray, the acting director for the Sierra Leonean government’s disaster management department. “It’s the way the houses are built. Everything is clustered. We must give [them] shelter, provisions, food. What happens at night, where do they sleep?”

Mansaray was directing his staff and residents through a process where they would register everyone who lost property.

They started at 8am, and reached the halfway point by 2pm. Later, the charity Save the Children would distribute food and water, while aid agencies and the government met to discuss what could be done.

Mansaray said this was the biggest recent disaster in Sierra Leone, besides the 2017 mudslide, which killed at least 1,100 people, and the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak.

Ibrahim Sesay, who works as a medical officer in prisons, said he believed the fire started in one home, but the owner panicked, shut the door and ran away.

“I thought it was a minor thing, it wouldn’t reach this area because of the distance,” he said. “I thought they’d rescue us but the wind was so high they were unable to stop it.”

Along with his wife, he managed to save a lot of their belongings by putting them close to the sea, where there was no construction. As smoke spread, he witnessed people fainting and collapsing. “They were totally hopeless,” said Sesay.

His extended family, of 24 people, lived across eight rooms. Among them were his wife and five children. “Before this incident we lived a peaceful life,” he said. “We want the government to help us. Fires keep happening. They should move us to a conducive atmosphere where I can live a happy life. A community where our children can grow up, get the basic facilities.”

“Where I’m presently standing is my house,” said Idrissa Turay (23), who lived next door to Sesay with his wife, brother and child. He was on a cement floor surrounded by ash and metal. He said he had lived there his whole life.

“I have nothing [now]. I can’t do anything unless someone helps me,” Turay said. “I think the government should do something but they won’t.”

Waste Water Treatment Plant

Good news from Sierra Lone as reported in the tweet from Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.

To achieve our #TransformFreetown liquid waste #Sanitation target we built Sierra Leone’s first ever waste water treatment plant! Funded by #FCDO & implemented by #GOAL, this innovative system uses geo-bags & will provide fertilizer input & grey water #TransformFreetown https://t.co/J4O5Cvi2JN
(https://twitter.com/yakisawyerr/status/1368330887180476419?s=03

Obstetric Fistula in Sierra Leone

Recently the committee of SLIP met with Fr. Edward Flynn C.S.Sp. Fr.Flynn gave a brief outline of the medical condition and the problems associated with it for  the women of Sierra Leone. It has a terrible effect on women who have the condition and more needs to be done to raise an awareness of this problem. Check the internet to find out more about this condition.

Below are the notes Fr.Flynn used for the discussion.

My contribution this morning is in three parts.

  1. Short personal account of how I got involved in this issue – 3 mins.
  2. An account of who is involved at this stage, the work we do – most of this is contained in the piece I sent you Jim some weeks ago. It was entitled ‘Prevention’. You may have already distributed it to your members. – 3 mins.
  3. Suggestions – about what SLIP can do to further this issue. – 3 mins.

Then we will have a Question and Answer session.

  1. Q&A session – 10/15 mins. Depends on Qs and interest.

 I came across the issue first in Pakistan and while I was there I met a surgeon who does repair operations. I still have contact with him. When I was in Geneva for some years I attended a one day meeting on the topic. What I learnt there was that most people approached this issue from a medical perspective. One person spoke about human rights in relation to the subject of fistula. From then I started to speak about the issue at the human rights council in 2015 – I think. In 2017 I collaborated in the preparation of a report on the topic from a human rights perspective, which I presented to the office of the Special Rapporteur (of the HRC) on Health in Geneva. When I returned to Ireland in 2019 I took up the issue on a full time basis.

What motivated me to get involved was the terrible situation of women living with this condition. Take a minute sometime to think about the horror that it must be for those women. It is torture 7 days a week.

 In September 2019 a German Sister from the Good Shepherd Congregation joined me in the work of advocacy on this topic in Geneva. Since then we have been making statements at the HRC on the issue. We have also been in contact with a number of people and offices in Geneva to further our work of advocacy, awareness raising and making recommendations on the topic. Last year another Geneva based organisation – Geneva for human Rights – joined us in the work of advocacy.

During 2020, we had been in discussion with the WCC in Geneva and in December last year they officially decided to join with us in the prevention of Fistula from a HRBA. Meanwhile we continue our work of preparing reports for the review of various countries. Along with SL at this moment we are working on Tanzania, South Sudan and Zimbabwe. A word about the situation in Sierra Leone. There is one place in SL that does repair operations – The Aberdeen Women’s Centre, in Freetown. Haikal. A majority of cases/instances of Fistula are likely to be in the rural areas. There are about 3,000 living with Fistula in SL. From the Global Fistula Hub website there is only one surgeon in SL doing repair surgery.

 What can SLIP do to further this work of advocacy? Since I began this work, for many of the people I have spoken with it was the first time they heard of the topic or had a conversation about the subject. Each conversation about Fistula is progress. With each conversation we are lifting the veil of ignorance about it. It is a hidden and neglected topic.

 

 1) So, My first suggestion is to have more conversations about the subject. Here in Ireland and in Sierra Leone.                                 

2) With whom to have these conversations? – among yourselves, with all partners linked to SL. – other NGOs, Missionaries working in SL.  Irish citizens who have their origin in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leonians who are working in Ireland, organizations involved with human rights, in particular women’s rights, those with an interest in gender equality, education, development. Anyone with an involvement with SL. And other Dev Agencies.

3) With Gov contacts/officials. Encourage them to take a human rights approach to dealing with the issue. Irish Aid probably gives funds that help support the work of the Aberdeen Centre. This is supporting those who have Fistula. But is Irish Aid supporting the prevention of Fistula?

A sentence from the Irish Aid website reads in relation to SL: “Our main focus areas are improving the health and nutrition of the poorest communities and promoting women’s rights,” This is a good place to start a conversation with the gov agencies/such as Irish Aid.

  In SL – Have conversations with those who are already working on the issue. Find out if there are people working on this issue from a human rights perspective. Start a National Conversation. Speak to journalists. Ask one to write an article in the papers. Ask someone to make a TV programme about it. Interview women who have recovered. Ask your partners to collect Data.

  Spread Awareness and Be informed about the topic.

 No mention of Fistula in any UPR reports so far.

The next UPR Review of Sierra Leone is on the 12th of May from 9.00am to 12.30. Geneva time.

 Link to the UPR page for SL. Here you will find all relevant documentation.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/SLindex.aspx

 Check UNTV for live streaming of the session. http://webtv.un.org/ See will anyone mention the topic of Obstetric Fistula.