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Action Against Hunger urges rapid, joint action to prevent disease outbreaks
Last week, flash floods killed over 490 people in Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown. To date, a large number of people are still reported missing and an estimated 6,000 altogether have been affected by the destruction.
Following a needs assessments coordinated by the government of Sierra Leone, Action Against Hunger and key partners quickly mobilized resources and launched a response to the emergency.
"The most urgent and immediate needs of people affected by these massive floods are safe drinking water, access to sanitation facilities, shelter, medication, blankets and psychological support. Disease outbreaks, especially cholera, are a big threat that will require joint efforts from all of us to protect the health of those at risk"
The flash floods caused deadly mudslides, swept away latrines and other sanitary facilities, and flooded and contaminated wells, cutting off people’s access to clean water. Unsafe sanitary conditions are elevating the risk of waterborne diseases and endangering public health in the densely populated urban neighborhoods of Freetown affected by the flooding.
To respond to people’s most urgent needs for daily supplies of safe drinking water, the government and Action Against Hunger’s partners are installing eight water tanks of 5,000 liters in the affected communities. These tanks will be filled twice a day to meet the needs of families who have been left with no safe sources of clean water.
In parallel, Action Against Hunger has already delivered emergency hygiene kits to 200 families to improve sanitation and health. The kits include water buckets, water purification tablets, bathing soap, powdered laundry soap, bowls, sanitary pads, bleach, and jerry cans. Action Against Hunger also delivered supplies of bottled water to 74 families to meet their urgent daily needs while the water kiosks are being installed.
Action Against Hunger is also conducting hygiene promotion sessions with families affected by the floods to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Ensuring that communities at risk have access to safe water, soap, and information about the importance of handwashing to prevent disease can help reduce the risk of outbreaks and illness enormously. In some cases, rates of illness from diarrhea have been reduced by almost 40 percent by widespread public hygiene promotion sessions and handwashing.
 Action Against Hunger is a partner of the Sierra Leone WASH Consortium, which is comprised of four humanitarian organizations with expertise in water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions.