Some children have been reported missing and many more left without a home, a day after a fire tore through a deprived community in Sierra Leone’s capital and left thousands of families homeless overnight, Save the Children said.
The fire started late on Wednesday in Susan's Bay, an overcrowded area in the heart of Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown where some of its poorest families live. The fire left thousands of people, including children, homeless, among heaps of burned out rubble that used to be their houses. Some children are feared to be injured or separated from their families.
“I have lost all my uniforms - all was burnt in the fire. Right now we are taking exams and I didn’t go to school today because I have nothing,” said 16-year-old Musa*, who needs a uniform to be allowed to attend school. “My shoes, everything got lost,” he told Save the Children in the burnt out area that used to be his home.
According to authorities, an estimated 4500 people have been impacted by the fire, including hundreds of children. The cause of the fire is as of yet unknown, but given the cramped and crowded conditions of the camp, the fire could spread quickly, Save the Children said.
Heather Campbell, Save the Children’s Country Director for Sierra Leone, said:
"I was devastated when I went to the scene of the fire. Many children are missing as they were separated from their parents in the chaos. This is a terrible situation and we are very worried about the children and families affected by this fire. Thousands of families in Susan’s Bay already live in desperate conditions. In seconds, they lost everything they had: their makeshift shelters, their clothes, what little food they had in stock, their money - everything is gone.
“The people in Susan’s Bay are mostly fishermen and petty trade families who already struggle to provide for their children, who sleep in congested conditions under metal roofs. Children are in the middle of their exams, but many have lost the uniforms they need to attend school, while they and their parents find themselves waiting among the burnt remains of what was once their home.”
Save the Children has been supporting the affected community by providing water, biscuits and food packets. The organization is also looking to supply other food items and school materials and will work with the responsible ministries to ensure children are safe and protected from the trauma experienced from this fire.
For media inquiries contact Anna Jabour on 0403 322 992
*Name changed to protect child’s identity