Sierra Leone: Can an outpouring of love in the midst of tragedy help to renew our world?

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Tearfund Senior Campaigner Clare Lyons reflects on how to respond to the mudslide in Sierra Leone that cost so many lives.

In the aftermath of the tragic mudslide in Sierra Leone last week, Gaston Slanwa, Tearfund’s Sierra Leone Country Representative, told us of the ‘huge outpouring of love’ from the local community, who are caring for those in need in the midst of their own personal loss. 

A loving response in the face of tragedy naturally also includes questions. Why did this happen? Could anything have prevented it? What could have been done differently? There are no easy, or simple answers. A situation like this is naturally complex, with commentators suggesting that a range of factors – such as poor urban planning, deforestation and waste management – contributed to the loss of lives and livelihoods.  

These all need to be considered – yet whatever the underlying factors may be that increased the vulnerability of those affected, heavy rainfall has been widely cited as triggering the mudslide in Sierra Leone.

A study by Sierra Leone’s Njala University found that total rainfall has been increasing in Freetown over the past decade, citing climate change as a cause, with severe flooding now an annual occurrence. This isn’t just a problem in Sierra Leone. Heavy rainstorms and heatwaves are on the rise across the globe due to man-made climate change. At the moment, severe flooding is affecting more than 16 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Meanwhile, scientists in Brazil investigating flash flooding in Sao Paolo concluded this month that climate change has altered the rain pattern in the region.

Tearfund believes that we ought to steward and protect the natural world. And we know that the health of creation and of our global family are inextricably linked – that as our environment is degraded, so are the opportunities for people to flourish.

As Tearfund’s Restorative Economy report notes, incredible progress has been made over the last 25 years, with millions making a ‘great escape’ from poverty. Yet if we do not take steps to tackle climate change, we risk undoing all these vital gains – seeing beloved homes and livelihoods swept away, and tragedies such as those experienced in Sierra Leone happening more and more. A loving response in the face of these disasters includes doing all we can to press for a more sustainable and fair future for those in poverty.

That’s why Tearfund calls on decision makers across the world to take action to reduce carbon emissions  and support communities in preparing for disasters caused by extremes of weather and other climate impacts. Our campaign Renew Our World is working to address this through a global movement of people who long to the world renewed.

As Al Gore has said in relation to his new film An Inconvenient Sequel, “The fact that so many people all across the planet are now taking action [on climate change] on a daily basis, that’s what gives me the most hope.”

Consider how you can take action to Renew Our World today.

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