Child Health Crisis Looms in Sierra Leone as Death Toll Continues to Rise

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (August 18, 2017)— Save the Children has warned of a child health crisis in Sierra Leone due to contaminated water supplies and lack of safe shelter following this week’s deadly floods and mudslide. One hundred and twenty two children are now confirmed to have lost their lives in the tragedy, according Connaught Hospital, with 810 people still missing.

Two suspected cases of cholera have already been reported by rescue teams who have been responding since the mudslide struck outside the capital early on Monday morning. Dead bodies can still be found in water sources and outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria and other deadly diseases remain a serious risk.

An estimated 3,000 people have been displaced by the floods – around half of them thought to be children – and, as rain continues to beat down on the West African nation, many are huddled without beds, blankets or mosquito nets on the floors of schools, mosques or houses, the aid organization says.

"This tragedy has already claimed the lives of more than a hundred children. It’s our responsibility to ensure that number doesn’t rise," said Sasha Ekanayake, Save the Children’s Sierra Leone Country Director.

"Right now, our priority is preventing the spread of deadly waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. We know water supplies have been contaminated due to the floods and mudslide and that children are still sleeping without mosquito nets or blankets so conditions are rife for a child health emergency in affected areas."

Dead bodies remain in some flooded houses in Kamayama, contaminating water and forcing the government to consider fumigation in the region. One hundred and twenty three children are so far known to have been orphaned.

On Friday, Save the Children plans to distribute thousands of sanitary and hygiene products including soap powder, water treatment kits and hand-washing equipment. The aid organization is also providing counselling and support services to children and families affected by the crisis, in coordination with government efforts.

The mudslide, which hit the Regent area just outside of Freetown, damaged government water pipelines and pumping capacity. As a result, parts of affected areas have been without water for drinking, washing or cleaning since Monday. Wells and boreholes have also been contaminated according to the government. The government has called for donations of protective clothing such as gloves and boots for rescue workers to help prevent the spread of diseases and further contamination.

The government and its partners are prioritizing finding safe shelter for children and their families as the assessments continue to determine the scale of this crisis and loss of lives which is still unclear.

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