Israel Sending Aid to Flooded Sierra Leone

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel will be among the first to respond to the national emergency in Sierra Leone, the West African country devastated by mudslides and torrential flooding, Israel’s foreign ministry said on Monday night.

The rescue mission, ordered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is expected to include shipments of clean water, medicine and blankets, distributed through Israel’s embassy in Senegal. Israel does not have an embassy in Freetown, near the disaster area where over 300 people were killed and thousands left homeless.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone was described as fighting back tears as he made an appeal for international help from the Regent hilltop community of Freetown, one of the hardest-hit places.

Koroma said the scale of the disaster “was overwhelming us.”

This will not be the first time Israel has sent emergency help to the country. In 2014, it set up a field hospital to assist in coping with the Ebola epidemic, which claimed some 4,000 lives in the country. At the time, Israel also contributed $10 million to the Ebola aid fund, the sixth-largest contribution in the world.

Koroma visited Israel in January, the first time for a leader of the country, and said he hoped to “rekindle” his country’s long-standing “fraternal relationship” with Israel. Sierra Leone joined the majority of African countries in severing diplomatic ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Meanwhile, Britain’s aid department said it is sending help.

“From stopping the Ebola outbreak in its tracks to helping the country rebuild ‎after this deadly event — the U.K. continues to stand by the people of Sierra Leone,” said Priti Patel, the minister of the Department for International Development.

The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) is providing trauma counseling and therapy to families and children in the dozen-odd communities struck by the mudslide, said Reuters.

“You can see people openly grieving … there is a lot of hurt to address,” said UNICEF spokesman John James.

Several aid agencies said they were bracing for more heavy rainfall in the coming days.