• September 1, 2023

The Menace of Slums in Freetown

The Menace of Slums in Freetown
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By Hassan Osman Kargbo

All around the world, there are slums, whether developed or underdeveloped. Over the years, there has been an increase in the growth of slums not just in Sierra Leone but across Africa. The capital city of Freetown has experienced a steady increase in the population mainly in the urban areas which has ignited majority of people to live in the slums area, for some, they cannot afford to pay for convenient places within the town, whistle others think that slum is their permanent places to live.

So as a result, they cannot move to any other places. After the past civil war, the population of Sierra Leone has increased drastically especially in the capital city. The country’s population has doubled over the decades. According to Statistic Sierra Leone 2021 Census report, Sierra Leone’s population now stand at 7, 541, 641 and Freetown alone hosts a population of 1,258, 757 which has led to the expansion of slum communities in Freetown.

In the Western Area communities like: Congo Town, Kroo Bay, Susan Bay and Marbella are all areas where we can find slums in the capital. Kroo Bay slum dubbed the most famous and populated of all with over 7,000 inhabitants that lives in those slums area. This unprecedented and persistent growth of slums in the Western Area has posed a lot of challenges for past and present governments in Sierra Leone.

The World Book Encyclopaedia Britannica describes a slum as; “a heavily populated urban informal settlement characterized by substandard housing and squalor. These slums areas mostly lack liable sanitation services, supply of clean water is seriously a challenge in those slums areas, reliable electricity is also a problem, timely law enforcement, and other basic services are also a problem.

Slum menace is not only limited to Sierra Leone, but it’s also extended across the world. According to the UN-Habitat report, “The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003”, shows that slums life often entails enduring some of the most intolerable housing conditions, which frequently include sharing toilets with hundreds of people, living in overcrowded and insecure neighbourhoods, and constantly facing the threat of eviction. Slum dwellers are also more likely to contract water-borne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, and they are also exposed to other sexual transmitted diseases in those area.

Speaking to FORUMNEWS-SL to get views of slum dwellers in the Western Area, Pa Sorie Deen Saccoh said he has been living at the Kroo Bay Community for the past 25 years, and what’s seriously affecting them is lack of proper garbage disposal “Dirty box” in Freetown.

Residents around the city and on the hillsides communities were indulged in disposing of garbage in gutters which were later washed away by heavy rains to the coastal areas/Bay. As a result of the downpour of rains, massive erosions engulfed the drainages and washed away the soil and the garbage along to the coastal areas. The drainages leading to the coastal areas are narrow, and cannot contain the huge-muddy waters from the hills. These waters overflow at the bays which result in structuring, food, and clothing, even endangering their lives.

When asked about the facilities in Kroo Bay community, such as health center, school etc, Pa Sorie Deen mentioned that, over the years, the community has had some basic social amenities such as a health center, community hall, school, and electricity supply, yet they are faced with numerous challenges in accessing those facilities.

The issue of slum is seriously going out of hands in the City, before we can think of solutions to end slums issue in Sierra Leone, we need to look at the courses of the high growth of slums in the country. One of the main courses of the high increase of slum communities is the growth of the urban population. As the rural-urban migration is seriously taking different trend, people in the rural areas find pleasure to settle in the city, but because they don’t have conducive place to stay and not we can’t even mention them to rent houses in convenient environment, so as a they will decide to stay in those informal places. Urban migration is one of the causes of slum growth in Western Area.

Also, another key reason for slum growth in the Western area is the housing crisis in urban centers. When they moved to the City from rural area, they knew that they can’t afford to live in any formal settlements, because it may be too expensive for them, they would decide to end up in informal settlements. This has led to the increase of slums across the City of Freetown.

Because of the rapid growth of slums in the country, the government needs to up their games to improve the lives of slum dwellers in the country. The government needs to upgrade the congested population of the slums communities. The best way to do this is to provide alternative housing facilities for slum dwellers. The government should provide permanent and affordable housing to people who currently live in slum areas. Soft loans make home ownership accessible. Though this may not address poverty and low wages of the informal economy, it can help in addressing slums in City.

Also, another way is government need to improve job opportunities in rural as well as urban areas. Job opportunities especially the rural area so that people can’t leave the rural area to the urban areas in search of greener pastures. When there are jobs facilities in the rural areas, it’s difficult for one to leave his place to search for greener pastures elsewhere.

Finally, the government in 2014 tried to relocate them to the far East, but the message from the slum dwellers is clear, they stated that government should upgrade the slums for wherever possible, and relocate only where necessary.

Which can be interpret as lot of them are not in favour of relocating, but rather simply asking for government to upgrade the slum areas or better still the government to remove the slums away from them.

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