At least 144 people were killed after a fuel tanker exploded in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on Nov. 5. After assessing needs in the field, Humanity & Inclusion is moving on to the next stage of its response: assisting victims.
Humanity & Inclusion teams were working in Freetown when the explosion occurred and immediately began evaluating needs in the community. The victims include especially at-risk groups such as children, aging people and people with chronic diseases.
Focusing on rehabilitation and psychosocial support, Humanity & Inclusion will work in partnership with other organizations and the Freetown city authorities over the coming days to provide support to:
- 200 injured survivors of the explosion
- Relatives of the 144 people who have died
- 1,172 indirectly affected members of the community
- 50 health professionals
Rehabilitation and psychosocial support
In addition to emergency medical care, victims of the explosion will need long-term rehabilitation and psychosocial support.
Hundreds of people were injured in the explosion, many with severe burns. Burn victims risk developing joint contractures and difficulties with movement, and require special rehabilitation care. Unfortunately, physical therapists in Sierra Leone do not have expertise in caring for serious burn victims. Humanity & Inclusion plans to develop targeted rehabilitation activities so patients can get the care they need.
When people experience a traumatic event on this scale, victims and their families need help to overcome their pain and the impact of the accident.
“We plan to assist victims affected directly and indirectly by the disaster,” says Pauline Ducos, Humanity & Inclusion’s director in Sierra Leone. “Psychosocial support and rehabilitation care are among our main priorities. Humanity & Inclusion will help victims overcome the disaster and build their resilience. Social workers from our partner organization will reach out to each victim and their family, listen to them and refer them to specialized services, if necessary.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency response includes:
- Rehabilitation care for burn victims: physical therapy sessions; patient follow-up; covering transportation costs
- Psychosocial activities: individual and group support; paying wages of psychosocial staff members
- Training health staff
More than 100 people were killed when a fuel tanker hit a large truck and exploded on Nov. 5 in Freetown’s Wellington district. Humanity & Inclusion staff in Sierra Leone are working to assist the community.
Humanity & Inclusion teams responded to the affected area, checking on people injured in the explosion, and their needs. Many people will require medical and rehabilitation care.
“It’s important to treat the injured, particularly serious burns victims, by providing them with rehabilitation care,” says Pauline Ducos, Humanity & Inclusion’s director in Sierra Leone. “If casualties are not treated after they leave the hospital, they risk losing their functional abilities and may develop a disability.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams also plan to help survivors and their relatives with psychosocial support.
“Our current priority is to give casualties psychosocial assistance in order to prevent extensive psychological damage,” explains Mamoud Kargbo, Humanity & Inclusion’s operations manager in Freetown.
A ‘national disaster’
Declared a “national disaster” by the Vice President of Sierra Leone, the explosion occurred when a fuel tanker collided with a large truck carrying granite. Most of the casualties are street vendors and motorcyclists who were attempting to recover fuel from the tanker when it exploded.
A total of 101 people died and 200 more were injured. Half of the people with injuries are unlikely to survive, according to the latest reports.
All casualties are being treated in the city’s hospitals and clinics, which have been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of patients. The facilities do not have staff with expertise on caring for serious burns victims.
Humanity & Inclusion in Sierra Leone
Humanity & Inclusion began working in Sierra Leone in 1996, when it opened a rehabilitation center in Bo, followed by three other centers. Since then, Humanity & Inclusion has worked alongside the medical community to improve the standard of rehabilitation care. Teams also promote inclusive education, protection and mental health.
Humanity & Inclusion has responded to major health emergencies in the country, including the Ebola epidemic from 2013 to 2015, the mudslide in 2017, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the last 25 years, Humanity & Inclusion has served tens of thousands of individuals, including people with disabilities, children and women to alleviate poverty and improve access to essential services.
After Riad, 20, lost his leg in a shooting, he feared that he could not care for his family. Today, with the help of Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support, physical therapy and a new prosthetic leg, he can’t wait to show his family what he can do.
On February 15, Riad and his family heard gunfire outside of their house in the Central African Republic. The shooting continued for hours, so they fled in search of safety. Like many others, they sought refuge in a mosque in Bambari. But their safety was short-lived, as gunmen soon entered and opened fire on the families inside, taking several innocent lives. Riad was shot twice, once in his left ankle and once in his right leg. He lay wounded on the ground until the next day, too afraid to seek help until then. By the time he was taken to the hospital, his injury had become so severe that his right leg was amputated 21 days later.
The operation was a success, but Riad worried about the future. He lives with his mother, his siblings and their children in Bambari. His greatest fear after losing his leg was that he would not be able to take care of his family. After the amputation, Humanity & Inclusion psychosocial specialists helped him overcome his fears, cope with the pain, and start adjusting to life with a disability.
Always accompanied by his older brother, Riad has been attending physical therapy with Humanity & Inclusion specialists twice a week in Bambari. Ready for an artificial leg, Humanity & Inclusion recently paid for the brothers to visit the Central African Republic’s only fitting center in Bangui.
“I can’t wait to receive my prosthesis,” Riad said during his fittings. “I hope to be able to walk again and take care of my mother. I’ll be able to go get food and spend my day working outside of the house. I think I’ll feel brave again.”
After a week of casts and learning to walk again, Riad received his new prosthetic leg.
“I used to look at my leg and cry, but now I feel stronger,” he says. “I feel that I will have less to worry about from now on and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from HI, from my amputation until now. I can stand up and walk again. I can’t wait to show my family!”
Header image: Riad practices walking with his new artificial leg at a fitting center in Bangui. Inline image: Riad and his brother at a rehabilitation center in Bambari. Copyright: A. Servant/HI
A violent incident cost Hervé his right leg, but with support from Humanity & Inclusion, the 26-year-old proudly stands on two feet again.
One day in late June marked the start of a new beginning for Hervé, who took his first steps with his freshly fitted prosthetic leg. In the months since his right foot was seriously injured in an armed attack in Bambari in February, Hervé’s life—and outlook—have changed dramatically.
After the incident, Hervé was taken to the hospital where doctors said they needed to amputate the lower part of his leg. At first, Hervé refused.
“I was so afraid of losing my leg and of the consequences it would have on my life,” Hervé explains. “I thought I would become a burden to my family and I didn’t want that.”
With Hervé refusing surgery, the hospital was prepared to discharge him despite the life-threatening risks of his injury. But his leg had become infected and the need to amputate was increasingly urgent. It was then that Humanity & Inclusion’s team learned of Hervé’s case and intervened.
Over the course of a week, Humanity & Inclusion’s mental health specialists counseled Hervé and helped him to overcome his fears, while educating him on the severity of his situation. With his newfound understanding and psychosocial support, he made the life-saving decision to undergo the operation.
After his amputation, Humanity & Inclusion’s team provided Hervé with a wound dressing kit and he regularly received care from physical therapists and mental health specialists to aid in a smooth recovery. His transportation costs to and from therapy were also covered by Humanity & Inclusion to ensure access to the care he needed.
When the time finally came for Hervé to take the next step in his recovery, Humanity & Inclusion took him to Bangui to be fitted for an artificial limb at ANRAC, the only fitting center in the Central African Republic. One week in June, Hervé spent every morning testing models and having molds made at the center, all leading up to the moment where he can finally begin to walk with his new prosthetic.
“I’m so happy,” Hervé says. “It has been so difficult to get around without a prosthetic. I hope, for myself and my family, that I will be able to walk normally again soon so that I can go back to living the way I used to. I see that little by little, I’m becoming mobile again and for that I thank HI.”
After his injury, Hervé’s job opportunities were limited. For now, he's shining shoes along the main road in the city for very little income. But with his newfound mobility, Hervé is eager to start a new job as a mobile pharmaceutical vendor, walking tall around the neighborhoods of Bambari.
In Ethiopia's Tigray region, Humanity & Inclusion has identified an urgent need for mental health and psychosocial support as the crisis continues.
People are isolated, facing food insecurity and have spent months living under the constant threat of violence. Stress levels are high, and the population is experiencing widespread psychological trauma.
More than 5,400 children have lost or been separated from their families. With nearly 2 million people forced to flee their homes, shelters are often overcrowded and there have been increased reports of sexual violence against women and girls. Unaccompanied children and girls with disabilities are at even greater risk of harm. The UN Population Fund estimates that more than 22,500 victims of sexual violence will seek clinical support this year. The number of unreported assaults remains unknown, as widespread fear and stigmatization prevent many from coming forward.
At this time, only a fraction of the region’s care services is active or able to respond. Many have been forced to close indefinitely due to the crisis and others are overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Along with rehabilitation and inclusive initiatives, Humanity & Inclusion has listed mental health support and protection among the top priorities for its emergency intervention plan in Tigray. Mental health specialists will be mobilized to access people in remote and isolated areas as well as dozens of camps housing internally displaced people. Teams will provide psychosocial support and refer individuals in need of additional care, including those with new or pre-existing disabilities, to appropriate resources. Group therapy sessions will also be implemented alongside recreational activities such as sewing, beading and art therapies to improve mental health and wellness.
“In times of crisis, people are in dire need of mental health and psychosocial support. Emergencies eliminate sources of support and care that are normally available and they increase the risk of developing psychological distress while also amplifying pre-existing ones. Crises like this can have long-term impacts on the development and well-being of an entire population, create psychosocial disabilities, and overall, negatively impact physical health and social cohesion. HI’s mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) activities promote optimal mental health and social participation which takes into account the social and psychological aspects of support and access to medical care.” — Chiara Beguin, mental health specialist for Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion promotes Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in development and fragile settings. View the flier here.
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This Kisumu County strategy outlays the principles, objectives and actionable activities that the Department of Health and Sanitation of the County Government of Kisumu, Kenya commits to undertake in order to provide the highest attainable standards of health; particularly sexual and reproductive health. View the strategy here.
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Young people with disabilities have the same right to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) as their peers without disabilities, but their needs and rights are often overlooked. The findings of this study, which was initiated by UNESCO and Humanity & Inclusion, aims to provide evidence to support decision-making by government agencies, educators, development workers and other relevant stakeholders regarding developing and implementing disability-inclusive SRH and sexuality education policies and program for young people in China. View the report here.
Mental health problems are commonplace and affect more than one in four people worldwide. They are responsible for a quarter of all disabilities. This document aims to provide a basis for exploring these concepts as part of more in-depth work, including an update of the 2011 mental health framework document. View the document here.
Humanity & Inclusion works to prevent violence based on disability, gender and age and its disabling consequences in development and fragile settings, as well as to provide holistic care for survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse. HI’s goal is to ensure that people with disabilities and other at-risk groups are less exposed to violence and can live in dignity, independently, and with control over their own lives. View the flier here.
Humanity & Inclusion promotes the awareness raising, prevention, early detection, and care management of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes in development and fragile settings View the flier here.
People with disabilities are living with HIV. This paper explains why they must be included in virus prevention education, provided access to treatments, and rehabilitation. What's more, people living with HIV are not receiving proper rehabilitation care as the virus causes impairments. View the article here.
Road safety is a growing development and public health issue. Globally, road crashes are close to becoming one of the first five causes of death, and non-fatal injuries heavily impact on disability. Indeed, each year, road crashes kill 1.25 million people and injure as many as 50 million others. View the briefing paper here.
This document is intended to provide guidance and a framework for each stage of the project cycle for projects tackling the theme of diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. View report here and brief format here.
This analysis paper presents the ‘know-how’ acquired by Humanity & Inclusion in its diabetes prevention and control projects. View report here.
A policy paper that presents a design for a national plan on psychosocial interventions, aiming to develop and promote the national plan established during the July 2006 war. View report here.
As It Is: Research Findings on the Knowledge, Attitude, Practice and Access to HIV and AIDS Information and Services Amongst Persons with Disability (2007)
Scientifically gathered information concerning the knowledge, attitude and practice among people with disabilities in areas surrounding HIV and AIDS. View report here.