September 19 2017

A Deadly Mudslide Wiped Away Their Home and Family

Little Samuel and his sister Francis survived the deadly mudslide in Sierra Leone but lost their home and family.

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone—Last month, in the early morning, a devastating mudslide toppled the home of little Samuel and his baby sister Francis. Everyone inside their home died—their mother, father and three other siblings.

More than 800 people died that morning from the mudslide in Sierra Leone, which occurred on August 14. Thousands were left homeless.

But Francis and Samuel survived the deadly mudslide—by coincidence. The previous day, the children joined their uncle at church, a pastime they enjoy every Sunday. Typically, the children return home, but that day they were tired and asked to stay over at their uncle’s house. He agreed. “In the morning I received a call from a relative telling me that my sister’s house had been wiped out,” said their uncle, John.

A photo of little Samuel. His parents and three siblings were killed in their home during a devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone.

A photo of little Francis, Samuel’s sister. Adjusting to her new SOS Family has been particularly difficult for Francis.

The children’s extended family journeyed from the north of the country to Freetown to comfort Samuel and Francis. But when their family returned home, they left the two siblings in Freetown.

“They told me that they are too poor to care for them,” the uncle said.

The uncle, also unable to care for his young nephews, registered them as orphans with the government office for child welfare.

A trusted partner in Sierra Leone since the early 1970s, SOS Children’s Villages was asked by the government to care for Francis and Samuel. On August 22, the two children were welcomed into an SOS Family by their SOS Mother at one of the three SOS Villages in Sierra Leone.
“I gave them a hug when I received them,” said their SOS Mother Adama. “I had heard about their situation on the TV.” Adama cares for seven other children in her SOS Family, including four children whose parents were killed by the Ebola virus three years ago. Their house is full of stuffed animals.

The SOS Children’s Villages team in Sierra Leone is also looking after the many other victims of the devastating mudslide. In particular, we have been distributing food and other essential items, in addition to providing much-needed professional trauma counseling.

“We could see the devastation, a lot of destruction, a lot of trauma, a lot of displaced people and people not knowing what to do because it had just happened and people had not registered the magnitude of the whole situation,” said Teresa Ngigi, a psychologist employed by SOS Sierra Leone. “It was quite devastating. There were a lot of lives lost, and extreme loss of property.”

Names changed to protect the privacy of the children.