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Caritas Freetown Leads 21-Day Feeding Program for Thousands of Sierra Leone’s Fire Victims

Volunteers at Caritas Freetown getting ready to serve victims of the Thursday, March 25 fire at Susan's Bay slum in Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Volunteers at Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone are leading teams of other charity organizations in reaching out to thousands of people who were left homeless when fire razed down a huge chunk of a slum outside the country’s capital in the Archdiocese of Freetown.

The Thursday, March 25 fire at Susan’s Bay, a community of ramshackle structures made from corrugated sheets and recovered materials in Freetown left over 7,000 people homeless and hundreds of others seriously injured.

Caritas Freetown Programs Manager, Ishmeal Charles described the aftermath of the inferno as “a very unfortunate situation.”

“A lot of people are suffering,” Mr. Ishmael told ACI Africa Monday, March 29, and explained that 409 people were physically injured in the fire that affected 7,093 people consisting of about 1,500 families.

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The Caritas official said that a majority of the people who now have no homes are staying in the Susan’s Bay community and are sleeping on the bare floor.

He told ACI Africa that a few victims had gone to stay with their relatives in the huge slum area that was partly burnt.

Susan’s Bay is a vast community that has about 11,400 people and a majority of the population were affected by the fire, he says, adding that the homeless people are struggling to survive because the tents that have been provided for them are limited. 

“Majority of the fire victims are spending days and nights out in the open. Unfortunately, there was rain last night that lasted about five minutes around 3 a.m. in Freetown and the people were just rained upon,” he narrates.

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Response to the affected is currently being done by the Partnering to Serve Humanity Foundation, a consortium that comprises Capital Freetown, Healey International Relief Foundation and Tzu Chi Foundation with Caritas playing the lead role in coordination.

“The first day of Caritas intervention we provided 5,000 hot meals for individuals and provided 3,000 meals on the second days. This will go on for the next 21 days,” Mr. Ishmael says.

He adds, in reference to the 21-day-feeding program, “At the moment, we have received budgetary approval for the first ten days. But the Buddhist Tzu Chi foundation has demonstrated a commitment to cover the entire 21 days.”

Caritas Freetown has established seven cooking joints in the community, which are referred to as the zones for cooking and coordination. Here, the Caritas volunteers have provided the people with bowls and spoons, which they keep and bring every day to collect food.

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Items provided for a section of the victims include blankets, water and hot meals, Ishmael told ACI Africa during the March 29 interview, adding that plans are underway to provide clothing for all the 7,000 people.