Freetown the capital of Sierra Leone has a total of 72 slums with an estimated population of 500,000 people living in them. These settlements are not homogeneous in nature as they all share different peculiarities in terms of composition, location, and access. There are slum settlements on the hilltops or mountain slopes, in the middle of the city, and on the shore line.
Most of these settlements, especially those on the shoreline, such as Kroo Bay, Cockle Bay, Moa Wharf, Aberdeen Creek, Susans Bay, Old Wharf, and Coffee Wharf are now experiencing a boom in population. Those slum settlements on the Mountain slopes such as Mount Aureol, Leicester Road community, among others have also been reported to have started experiencing a slow rise in population.
Speaking to NewsWatch, the Acting Environmental Officer of the Freetown City Council, Sorie Alpha Kamara, said the increase in the population of inhabitants in slum communities in Freetown is largely as a result of the growing need for cheap housing due to poverty, land grabs, little or no awareness of family planning methods, poor management by local authorities and rural-urban migration.
The Secretary General of the Kroo Bay Community, Mohamed Papani Kargbo said people are attracted to the area because they cannot afford high rents in the city, and believe that they can only survive in an environment where they can afford low cost housing, low cost of living and can have easy access to markets, where they trade in simple merchandise normally referred to as petty trading.
Acting Environmental Officer of the Freetown City Council, Sorie Alpha Kamara said that the unlawful settlement in those areas and the increasing inhabitant population has huge environmental implications, most of them negative, adding that people are residing in disaster prone areas without going through the right channels, including having the approval of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning.
Mr. Kamara said that they have identified and shared the many warning signs of possible environmental disasters but the inhabitants are unwilling to leave disaster prone areas even when Government has provided alternatives such as resettlement to safer areas out of the city.
Sorie Alpha Kamara further said that the management of the Freetown City Council (FCC) has been robust in their mandate on the disaster risk education campaigns in the city, and added that even though the government has relocated large numbers of slum dwellers to six communities in Waterloo, most of those who are still living in disaster prone areas have refused to leave.
Secretary General of the Kroo Bay Community, Mohamed Papani Kargbo said that the situation is not as bad as the Government wants to portray it and that they have been receiving constant support from various Non-governmental organisations such as Plan International who have even trained Twenty Five executive members on capacity building, leadership, project management and youth empowerment, and that in 2003 the Young Woman Christ Association, (YWCA) built the first community school and health center in Kroo Bay.
Youth Chairperson of the Old Wharf Community, Mohamed Turay told NewsWatch that they have been residing in the slum areas for over five years, adding that the government should provide health facilities for them as they also voted for President Bio and his New Direction Government.
The Chairlady of the Leicester Road Hill Community, Madam Kadiatu Sesay said that although they have not experienced any serious disaster in their community, they are currently facing huge challenges with access to adequate water supply and accessibility by transport. She said they have no roads even though they have been promised by successive governments who don’t actually want them there.
NewsWatch would continue to investigate this situation by taking a close look at the situation in other slum communities in due course.