On 14 August, heavy rains triggered flash floods and a six-kilometer-long landslide in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, submerging and wiping out over 300 houses along the banks of the Juba river, while flash floods affected at least four other communities in other parts of the city. At least 500 people died and over 5,900 people were directly affected by the disaster.

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UNDAC mission in Sierra Leone Credit: UNDAC

Following a request from the Government of Sierra Leone through the UN Resident Coordinator, a seven-person UNDAC team was deployed to the country in order to support the national authorities in the carrying out of rapid needs assessment, information management and response coordination. The team was supported by three GIS experts from MapAction.

Between 18 August and 7 September, they worked closely with the Office of National Security (ONS) and the United National Country Team (UNCT) and prepared situation updates, operational mapping, an environmental impact report, and provided information management services. Training on crisis communication was delivered to the UNCT Communications and Community Engagement officers, and the ONS Situation Room staff were trained on GIS. Not least, the team supported the ONS in inter-sectoral coordination.

The UNDAC team adapted to the local context, avoided establishing duplicate coordination systems, and focused on supporting existing national and international capacity. As the response has moved to long-term recovery, the UNDAC and MapAction teams have certainly left a mark.