DAKAR – Money is being sent via mobile phone to hundreds of families who survived a deadly mudslide on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown last month, the United Nations said on Friday.
At least 500 people were killed and more than 3,000 left homeless when a mountainside collapsed mid-August in the town of Regent – in one of Africa’s deadliest mudslides in decades.
The mobile cash payments, which are being funded by Britain’s aid department, will help about 1,900 households hit by the mudslide to pay for needs from education and food to healthcare, and to enable them to resettle in safer areas.
“I am pleased that … we are able to give money directly to those affected so they can decide what is best to meet their immediate needs and take steps to rebuild their lives,” said Guy Warrington, the British high commissioner in Sierra Leone.
The U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) has given mobile phones to the heads of households so they can receive their payments – which will total about $200 (150 pounds) over three months.
Those who choose to resettle elsewhere will receive an additional payment of $300 (220 pounds) and food vouchers from the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), according to U.N. agencies.
Aid agencies hope that these cash transfers mean families will not be forced to take their children out of school or sell their assets in order to ensure they have enough food to eat.
The WFP said it is distributing rations of rice, beans, vegetable oil and salt to the affected households.
“Families have suffered, lives have been lost and property destroyed through these unprecedented disasters,” said Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim, UNICEF’s representative in Sierra Leone.
“The cash transfers could be a great relief … as they will provide a lifeline,” Ibrahim said in a statement.
The country of 6 million people is one of the poorest in the world and was ravaged by West Africa’s 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, which killed about 4,000 people in the former British colony.