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Flood in Sierra Leone- picture credit; Peoples Gazette

COP26: Sierra Leone begs for support as rising sea destroys communities

Coastal communities in Sierra Leone are migrating after sea level rise has rendered dozens of people homeless and caused the death of others.

Global data from 2020 shows a rise of 91.3 millimetres (3.6 inches) above the sea's 1993 level. 

Over the past 15 years, residents of Freetown have experienced increasing sea level rise, destroying their livelihoods.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2012 attributed the causes of flooding in Sierra Leone to intense, localized monsoon rainfall.

More than 300 persons were killed in mudslides and flooding near Freetown in 2017.

Sierra Leonean, Paul Lamin, lamented that the rise in sea level is one of the many climate change issues faced by residents, which has reduced the lands of fisherfolks.

Mr Lamin told Peoples Gazette at the Sierra Leone Pavilion at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, that most coastal areas have migrated following the slow sinking of their homes. 

Success Ibrahim Sei Kamara, communications head at the country’s meteorological agency told the Gazette that some causes of sea level rise include global warming and tree cutting, adding that the country’s rainy season pattern has changed.

Mr Kamara, who resides in Freetown, said most of the flooding was due to “significant cutting down of trees,” adding that the country’s “federal government has planted 1.5 million trees against the proposed five million between 2020 to 2024.”

He said to address climate change, the country’s president “merged the meteorological agency, environmental protection agency, national protected area authority, forestry division, nuclear safety and radiation protection authority under the Ministry of Environment.”

Kadiyat Jalloh, Sierra Leone deputy fisheries director, explained to the Gazette that the impact of climate change was so much that during the rain, communities are flooded and in the dry season, there “is fire disaster because they smoke fish.”

Ms Jalloh said the country decided to have a pavilion at COP26 to discuss and draw the world’s attention to what is happening in Sierra Leone.

“We look forward to getting support in terms of climate finance and have a budget that will help us adapt and mitigate climate effect,” she added.

The country was earlier marked as the third most vulnerable country by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).

Documents cited by the Gazette shows the country needs $2.7 billion to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), a long-term plan made by countries to reduce the impact of climate change on humans and the environment.

This story was originally published in Peoples Gazette on November 10, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Banner image: Flooding in Sierra Leone / Credit: Peoples Gazette.