April 9, 2021

By Edward Vamboi

In the wake of the Susan’s Bay fire disaster that left about Seven Thousand and Ninety Three (7,093) people homeless and vulnerable, Caritas, as an organization,  in its response started serving the affected victims lunch on a daily basis.

On the 8th April 2021 the Deputy Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Patrick Dzierzon and his wife together with the wife of the Ambassador, Horst Gruner,  visited the Susan’s Bay community to commence the serving of breakfast in the ongoing feeding exercise that is been done by Caritas to the vulnerable victims as a way of showing their solidarity, cooperation and compassionate support.

According to Patrick Dzierzon, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy, they received a request from Caritas to come to the aid of the victims stating that the first major priority was to feed the affected victims before other help would come in order to enable the victims to continue to survive.

He told journalists that the Embassy has been working with Caritas for quite a considerable period of time now further acknowledging that the latter has been a reliable partner.

The Deputy Head of Mission said they are catering for all categories of people no matter the age or gender also underscoring how they don’t have sufficient funds to cater for all of them saying at least they are catering for half of the people that were affected by the disaster with the help of Caritas.

He disclosed that the feeding program will be lasting for the next fifteen days and they will see for the meantime other supports that are coming from other donors and see if there will be a possibility to give the victims  basic things like cooking pots, constructing fire places so that the people can use to start preparing their own food.

Patrick Dzierzon said such will be sustainable as the victims will cook their own food and not be fed by other people stating that it is their aim to enable them to empower themselves.

Ishmael Alfred Charles ,Programs Manager of Caritas told journalists that an estimated 45% of victims are still sleeping outside on the floor while an estimated  25% are in the tents constructed with the support of Red Cross and IOM.

He disclosed that the others are mostly squeezing in the areas that were not affected, the rest are living and staying with their families out of the community.

Ishmael said since the disaster occurred, Caritas as part of a consortium called Partnering to Serve Humanity has been providing hot meal for over Three Thousand Five Hundred (3,500) individuals and that number keeps increasing daily.

He disclosed that the request made to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany was meant to augment the feeding that Caritas had been offering adding that the hot meal feeding program only caters for one meal a day leaving the gap of not having breakfast and dinner.

According to him, the hot meal is served mostly around 3:30 to 4 PM and  the victims manage to get dinner, but it is harder to manage for breakfast.

He reiterated that it was against such a backdrop that Caritas Freetown approached the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Freetown to help them provide breakfast support for the over Three Thousand people to access hot tea in the morning for 15 days, before they reach the recovery stage in the response when an exit strategy will be determined.

Ishmael Charles concluded that the Embassy’s swift response materialized after contacting the German  Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they got speedy approval, after which they gave the green light to Caritas Management to proceed on the following day with the breakfast.

According to Father Peter Conteh, Executive Director  of Caritas  they are happy because they were able to mitigate the occurrence of flooding in the country by sensitizing the  communities  and putting other measures in place which saw limited flooding taking place, when suddenly they heard about the fire catastrophe at the Susan Bay Community.

He said every year they do respond to fire disasters in the country but said the incident that occurred at Susan’s Bay was of an highest magnitude.

The Father stated that their philosophy is to intervene after a disaster and later leave because they want to give the victims dignified lifestyles than they used to live before.

He disclosed that they will continue to e by the side of the suffering people until they find a better solution to their problem.

Father Peter Conteh commended the National Response Team for coordinating the various responses well disclosing that organizations were placed into pillars depending on their strength stating that they were placed under the pillar that provides meal for the victims.

He finally mentioned the provision of clothing and blankets when they noticed that some people were sleeping on the bare floor although such does not fall under their pillar.

“We are worried because children are sleeping in the open field and if it rains the victims will suffer,” he bemoaned.

Courtesy of the Calabash 9th April 2021

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