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Sheltering women and children in Sierra Leone

Posted on 30th September 2015 at 18:36pm

Editorial Advisory Panel Member Robert McAlister is in Sierra Leone with the Director of Bournemouth University’s Disaster Management Centre, delivering a series of Disaster Management training sessions to The Office of National Security. This is his third blog.

We had an interesting visit to the Attouga Mini Stadium today, which is predominately sheltering woman and children after the serious flooding two weeks ago.

It is far smaller than the National Stadium, but the authorities have utilised the space incredibly well. Pre-planning the space and using mainly tents, which have been uniformly deployed and secured, the camp looks and feels organised. From my vantage position on the stands you can gain the best perspective to oversee the entire camp.  

Thanks to the efforts of a host of stakeholders, toilets and wash facilities have been introduced, and cooking and feeding stations are in place. A fairly well set up and segregated health and maternity section for mothers is also available.  

Credit must be paid to the teams who were tasked with this quick logistic challenge for doing such a superb job in the timescales given. I stood in amazement at the sheer efficiency of the women in the camp washing their children and clothes in what you could only compare to a car production line.   

The reason for our visit was to meet with senior staff to hear how they have tackled this current crisis, alongside their already busy day jobs, to discuss next steps, assist and offer options in that decision-making process.

Part of the overall training has been to identify and map data collection processes, explore better usage and analysis and finally ensure end users get timely and accurate information.

Leading on from that, we will explore how the National Situation Room can collate these information streams to assist with the strategic recovery efforts in a quicker and more efficient manner. Being armed with accurate and timely information is vital, especially when you are dealing with multiple sites and the ongoing threat of Ebola.

On a lighter note, for those who have never been here, travelling from location to location is a challenge, but such an interesting experience. Swarms of motorbikes, many carrying man, woman and baby inbetween, lots of horn noises and every age group walking quite casually millimetres from passing vehicles... Small shops selling everything from hair dye to motorbike parts and every conceivable electrical device are brought to your car window ready for sale. All this is set against the dark red ground and colourful taxis and clothing. It brings a whole new meaning to organised chaos.

Travelling extensively across Freetown, you can see that life can be difficult, but the people carry on regardless, with good spirit and that is why I believe they can bounce back from these current crises, better and more resilient from their experiences. 

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