In June 2016, heavy rain devastated Margibi County, Liberia with Unification Town and the surrounding communities hardest hit. More than 15,000 people fled their homes as floodwaters washed away and damaged houses and belongings.
Hand pumps and other drinking water sources were contaminated, food stock and crops destroyed. Some of the most vulnerable in these communities lived in simple mud huts; these were completely swept away by the floodwaters.
With crops washed away, and many moving to temporary shelter, people have also seen their businesses affected badly by the disaster.
Liberia YMCA responds
Liberia YMCA responded quickly, assessing which households were most in need. A two week supply of rice, oil and canned goods was distributed to 300 families.
The next threat to the affected communities was of water-borne infections, caused by stagnating floodwaters. This was particularly important as these communities had previously been affected by Ebola, with burial sites magnifying potential health risks.
Local young volunteers raised awareness on how to prevent water-related infections like cholera, and how to control and safely dispose of stagnating water that leads to breeding of mosquitoes.
The volunteers also helped clean up the affected communities – unblocking drainage points, for example, so that the floodwater could easily flow away.
Communities return home
Floodwaters are now starting to recede, and with it families are beginning to return home. But not everyone has a home to go back to.
Liberia YMCA’s Edward Gboe says: “Over 7,000 people are still sheltering in schools, churches and other public facilities as a result of the collapse of their homes due to flood water. These were families whose homes were built of mud and sticks and therefore collapsed from flood water.”
For these very vulnerable families, getting back to their normal lives and livelihoods will be an uphill struggle – and they will need continued support.