Belgium, Pultney Street, Freetown, 27th August 2021 — His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio on Friday bequeathed King Jimmy (Belgium) fire victims with a cheque of Le10 million each to succour the devastating effect of the fire outbreak that ravaged their businesses and livelihoods on 5th March 2021.
The incident was immediately reported to the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), charged with the responsibility of managing and coordinating disaster-related matters in the country.
The NDMA, through its Directorate of Relief and Response went to the scene to do an assessment and physical verification of actual victims and determine the exact cause (s) of the disaster.
The assessment report reveals that the burnt structure was mainly occupied by people doing businesses to care for their livelihoods. The report further discloses, a total of 88 affected victims who were doing business there and 3 households that were permanently residing on the same structure.
Chairman of the occasion who doubled as Deputy Director-General of NDMA, John V. Rogers, started by welcoming President Julius Maada Bio and his entourage, saying he was fulfilled that the President was at Belgium to fulfil another promise which he made to the victims when the NDMA presented their report to him for consideration after the incident.
Mr. Rogers also gave a brief background on the level of engagements the NDMA held with the victims over the last four months. “Since the fire incident, we have been in constant touch with the Chairman of the ‘Belgium Sellers’ Association’ together with his Executive, to calm the nerves of some of the victims who were a little impatient with us. Your Excellency, we are pleased to inform you that all the 88 business people and residents of the 3 households we have assembled before you this afternoon are the actual victims that are to benefit from your magnanimity”, he stated.
The Director-General, NDMA, Lit. Brig. (Rtd) Brima Sesay, commenced his statement by thanking the President for establishing a stand-alone Agency, responsible to manage issues relating to disaster in the country.
He said the President has been able to deliver another manifesto promise by separating the Disaster Management Department now National Disaster Management Agency from the Office of National Security (ONS), thereby enabling ONS to specifically deal with security issues in the country and hiving the NDMA to deal with disaster issues.
The DG went on to narrate that the NDMA was established by an Act of Parliament which was signed by the President on the 8th of June 2020 and was subsequently launched on the 19th of November, 2021 at State House by His Excellency.
Lit. Brig. (Rtd) Brima Sesay also summarized the progress made so far by the Agency and the purpose for which it was established. “The significance of the National Disaster Management Agency cannot be overemphasized. The President knows his country; he also knows that there are disaster-prone communities in the country, and that only a stand-alone Agency will be able to adequately address the issues of disasters in the country”
“Since its creation, the NDMA has given assistance including food and non-food items and cash transfers to 774 houses, 17 churches/mosques/schools, 2,972 households and a total population of 12,448 across the country”, the DG added.
He continued: “When we presented the assessment report to the Chief Minister (CM) in April for the attention of the President; and upon receiving the report, being the magnanimous President he is, he wasted no time to approve the highest amount we recommended in the report. The President also expressed his willingness to grace the occasion and do the presentation of cheques himself. We could not have asked for more your Excellency”, he concluded.
Before President could say a word, the cheering crowd uncontrollably started lavishing praises on him in appreciation, calling him “Tok and Do President”.
In his opening remarks, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Julius Maada Bio said he was extremely happy to hobnob with the victims, adding that the reason why it took this long to respond to the victims was that the NDMA has a lot of other disasters- reported cases across the country that it has been responding to.
“The NDMA has been responding to other reports across the country including Sulima, Yeliboya, Kailahun and Port Loko. All these places reported cases of disaster mainly from windstorm and fire outbreaks. So you should understand with the NDMA because the intricacy hovering around their work is so huge”
“We did not only establish the NDMA to respond to disasters, but the Agency also has the mandate to reduce the vulnerabilities of prone communities and also do recovery throughout the country”, the President noted.
He ended by presenting the first cheque worth Le 10 million to the recipient, Marie Bangura while the Chief Minister continued with the rest of the presentations.
Appreciating the President for giving them a startup capital after her tragedy, Madam Bangura said she was overwhelmed and did not know how to thank President Bio. She said she has been selling “cold water” to feed her kids. “I have been struggling very hard to feed my kids since my shop got burnt; things have been very difficult for me. I will ever live to appreciate President for coming to our rescue at this defining moment of our lives”, she stated.
The National Disaster Management Agency is assuring the public of its determined commitment to managing disaster-related issues throughout Sierra Leone.
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