Massive Relief Efforts Underway for Sierra Leone

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MARWOPNET Interim Regional President, Madam Ward

-Liberians to also hold Prayer Vigil for Mudslide Victims

Liberia is coordinating a massive relief effort intended to officially extend humanitarian assistance to its neighbor Sierra Leone where over 1,000 people lost their lives after a mudslide precipitated by a torrential flooding in the early morning hours of August 14. The national relief effort is being coordinated by the Liberian chapter of the Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET-Liberia) and the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL).

The coordinators are currently soliciting relief items from businesses, the diplomatic community, humanitarian groups and well-meaning Liberians to lend a helping hand to the people of Sierra Leone. This was after they had already tasked themselves on what each group is to contribute to the worthy cause. Speaking at a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday, MARWOPNET’s interim sub-regional president, Madam Amelia Ward, said the organization and its partners, through this effort, are endeavoring to put together a substantive package for the victims of that MRU member state. “This is because when your neighbor’s house is on fire it is prudent to join in the rescue efforts and help to bring the situation under control because who knows, you might just be the next victim. It is in this vein that we at MARWOPNET and other organizations, especially women groups, are embarking upon this process to identify with our brothers and sisters in that country,” Madam Ward said. She also indicated that similar efforts are also underway in other MRU countries (Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire).

On August 14, torrential flooding and mudslides swept through Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, killing one thousand people (according to current reports) and caused widespread damage in and near the city. Thousands of people are missing and casualty numbers are increasing with each news report.

All donations to this effort, Ward said, will support recovery and relief efforts in Sierra Leone. Initially, the items will help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, clothes, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. The group envisions their effort transitioning to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local volunteers, once the initial relief work is complete. “We are collecting everything that can be of help to someone who is in distress and in need of assistance. We are talking about food items, clothes, sanitary items, toys and everything that can be of use,” she said.

The process of collecting the relief items, MARWOPNET focal person Ruth G. Caesar said, will begin Saturday, September 2-9 at the Monrovia City Hall. “All those who want to donate to this cause can proceed to City Hall where our volunteers will be to collect them and take down record. We will appreciate the involvement of every Liberian because this is something that needs our help and support. Our children are also encouraged to also get involved,” Madam Caesar noted. She added, “We have done it before in this country—when we were kids, and in elementary schools, we donated US$1 to students in Ethiopia and Congo because they were facing some problems. So let us encourage our kids to show some love to their friends in Sierra Leone. They can give useful toys and anything they have.”

As a result, she said, “We will be going to supermarkets, stores, restaurants and even to ministries and agencies to make this effort fruitful. We will also go to the Ministry of Health and other medical institutions for medical relief items.”

Prayers for Sierra Leone

Also in solidarity with Sierra Leonean victims, other member countries of the Mano River Union (MRU) are poised to hold vigils across the region next week. Led by MARWOPNET’s local chapters in Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast, the three MRU nations will host prayer sessions simultaneously in their respective countries. Madam Caesar said the group is collaborating with the Women of Liberia and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia to host the vigil prayers. “We want to seize this opportunity to express our deepest condolences to the government and the people and the families of the victims. It saddens our hearts to see such a natural disaster taking away the lives and destroying properties of our brethren and we were powerless to do anything physically to stop the destruction. In solidarity with our sisters and brothers of Sierra Leone, we, the women of Liberia and the inter-religious council will on Friday, September 8, hold an inter-religious prayer vigil in memory of those who lost their lives.” The prayer vigil will be held at the Monrovia City Hall, an activity that will also be observed by MARWOPNET sisters in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea.

Several prominent Liberian women graced the press conference in Monrovia in support of the relief effort, including Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, a MARWOPNET member; Marpue M. Speare, head of WONGOSOL; and Madam Elizabeth Sellee Mulbah. Meanwhile, the coordinators of the effort are also partnering with the Rotary Clubs in Liberia, Lions’ Clubs of Liberia and a number of other institutions.

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