In Sierra Leone UN Women is building resilience placing women at the center of humanitarian response

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sierra Leone and its people are known for resilience. Eleven years of violent civil war that claimed more than 50,000 lives and displaced one million people was followed by the Ebola Virus Disease that claimed another 4000 lives by the end of the epidemic in November 2016. No sooner had the country started to emerge from the Ebola crisis, than torrential rains which led to a deadly mudslide on 14 August, 2017 hit the country.  The recent crisis has claimed the lives of more than 400 people. Others had been found, but many victims are still trapped under heaps of mud in the areas/towns/districts of Regent, Kamayamah, Dworzak, Culvert, kissy brook, Mountain cut and Kaningo.

UN Women staff David taking victim's details | Photo: UN Women, Cecil Nelson
With boundless efforts from the community, military personnel and volunteers who supported the rescue operations, the National System Inter-Agency Rapid Response Team, including UN Women are helping take affirmative action of the humanitarian crisis.


In addition to being part of the Rapid Assessment Team, UN Women has distributed 750 “dignity kits” to women and girls within the first week, marking the first phase of humanitarian response at Water Street, Race Course Road and ‘Culvert’ —areas affected by the mudslide and flood.  The dignity kits include sanitary pads for women and girls, toothbrush/paste, underclothing’s, soap, clothing, bath towel and other basic health and hygiene necessities.

Since women and girls are often disproportionately and uniquely impacted by crises, UN Women is leveraging on its partnerships to ensure women’s leadership in humanitarian response in Sierra Leone and urgent gender-based needs of the affected population are met and delivered accordingly. While men are traditionally accustomed to receiving aid, the distribution of dignity kits focuses on women as recipients.  

Kadiatu Thoronka, Flood Survivor | Photo: UN Women, Cecil Nelson
Kadiatu Thoronka, 35, is a single parent with four children who received dignity kits distributed by UN Women. Not long ago, she had lost her husband and two children during the Ebola outbreak.



‘‘It was 3 a.m. when my 14-year-old daughter Kalaytu Thoronka woke me up, showing me the water that was coming into our house. Before we could do anything, water was spouting from everywhere and then the left side of my house collapsed… I thank God that my four children and I survived the flood, but I have lost my business capital worth USD 400 and all my belongings. I have nowhere to start but with this dignity kit,” she shared.

Memunatu Kamara, Flood Survivor |Photo: UN Women, Damon Samai
Memunatu Kamara, 38-year-old mother of three recounts the horrific ordeal: “It was around three in the morning when I heard a very loud noise and something hit our house. I immediately awakened my husband and my two daughters, aged nine and 15. I carried my one year old son Sullay, but on our way out, my husband and two daughters were hit by heavy rocks and they died. All I have left is my son the clothes that I am wearing. I am still wondering whether this is a bad dream or actual reality…”

Kamara is now temporarily staying with a neighbour. “I survive with food from UN agencies and NGO’s and I am very grateful to UN Women for the Dignity Kit, which has very useful items for my personal use. After the landslide, we gave our names as survivors to the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs and this is how we were given support.”


UN Women Staff at the flood scene |Photo: UN Women, Cecil Nelson
UN Women continues to work with the Government of Sierra Leone and partners in co-facilitating data collection and gender analysis to better inform the humanitarian response.  It is also collaborating with the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police to ensure protection of women and girls from Sexual Gender Based Violence in the affected communities. The agency has assigned several staff both in the front-line as well as in the National Emergency Response Mechanisms. UN Women is also facilitating and contributing to Coordination of the Social Protection Pillar as well as ensuring that Gender, Responsiveness is adhered to in all Pillars of the Response.  UN women alongside its implementing partners through the Gender Technical Team is generating Gender Alerts and supporting the generation and use of sex-disaggregation at all stages and Pillars of the Response.