The Natural vs. the Unnatural Disaster: The Impact of Flooding in Magbaikolie, Sierra Leone
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
A natural disaster is defined as, a natural event such as a flood, earthquake, or hurricane that causes great damage or loss of life. Although they are tragic, in places like the United States, they often bring out the best in humanity because we usually bond together to help those negatively impacted. I think about the flooding that occurred this year in Iowa and Nebraska, as well as other areas in the middle of the country, decimating precious farmland and the livelihood of thousands of Americans. We have areas of support that are available in the U.S., whether it be the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the declaration of a state of emergency. These types of intervention allow for quick actions to be taken and resources to be provided to the people in need.
An unnatural disaster, on the other hand, often occurs to a population simply because of poverty, or a lack of resources of support by those that can provide the precious resources needed. An unnatural disaster is what has happened and is happening in Magbaikolie. Flooding occurs every year across nearly the entire country of Sierra Leone during the rainy season. Farmers are aware of the yearly event, as they have been for generations, and plant their crops accordingly.
Magbaikolie sits at the convergence of two rivers and these rivers annually rise and cover parts of the farmland for a period of about two weeks. Two weeks of standing floodwater is not enough time to damage the crops, and farming can occur as usual. This year was different. The flooding was more extreme, and the water stayed unusually long. Because the water stayed longer than the average, it is estimated that 75% or more of the crops this year come harvest time will not bear any harvest. Some farmers will have a 100% loss. The lack of harvest also then impacts the 300+ students starting school at P.K. Memorial next month. What is the point of sending your child to school when your family has no food to eat and no way to earn a living?
Unfortunately, in Magbaikolie, there will be no FEMA, there are no special funds or relief from the government to help ease the pain. In a town where the only way to earn a living is through peasant farming, families will go without food or funds.
Last week, my father, Mohamed Sorie Mansaray, my uncle Mohamed Morsiray Mansaray, and I, Gibril Sorie Mansaray, put together an emergency funds package to help feed the nearly 1,000 inhabitants of Magbaikolie. The food provided arrived this past weekend. In a short clip below, taken from a series of videos we received from the supply drop, Mr. Kamara (speaking Krio) is essentially saying that the the people were thrilled to receive the food and funds and actually thanked God us and asked God to continue to bless us so that we can hopefully have something left over to bless them.
Mr. Abu Bakkar Kamara, Headmaster of P.K. Memorial Primary School
Secretary General, School Management Committee (SMC)
Thonkomba Section, Makeni Chiefdom, Bombali District
The videos made me shed a tear because I want to do more. We need to do more. The funds that we sent were only enough to sustain the village for about a week. Then what? This is why we need all of you to help. So many of us are blessed in this country. Fortunately, many of us do not have to have to worry about our next meal. I certainly do not. There is no shame in this privilege. The question is, what are WE going to do with this blessing? Do we have enough empathy and compassion to want to ease the suffering of others, or do we have pity and sympathy for those people, with no action behind those feelings? Pity has never eradicated any injustice for marginalized people. Only action can do that.
In closing, I ask, what are you willing to do? Natural disasters are not preventable. Unnatural disasters are under preventable. Help us take control of this unnatural disaster and bless the people of Magbaikolie. Then hopefully, the kids can start school and go about the business of using education to empower their future. Thank you.