Deadly floods in Guinea exacerbated by garbage-filled drains

Several homes were destroyed by flooding in the neighbourhood of Dabondy, in Conakry, Guinea, on May 18. Photo courtesy of Fatoumata Chérif.
Several homes were destroyed by flooding in the neighbourhood of Dabondy, in Conakry, Guinea, on May 18. Photo courtesy of Fatoumata Chérif.

Five children died in Conakry, Guinea, in the early morning of May 18 after heavy rains caused flooding in the capital. Our Observer said garbage had blocked the drainage canals, further contributing to the floods.

The children were sleeping in their home in the Dabondy neighbourhood in Matoto, Conakry, when a torrent of water and garbage made the wall collapse.

Fatoumata Chérif, a blogger who launched a social media campaign in 2017 to raise awareness about waste in the city, posted photos of the destroyed home on social media.

Fatoumata Chérif shared photos of destroyed homes and wrote on Twitter that "urgent garbage management measures needed to be taken".

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'We must learn from this flood'

Chérif says the floods were caused by trash buildup.

The water couldn't flow through the drainage canals because garbage had piled up, so the water took another path.

The drainage ditches are used as dumps. It’s very hard to get people to understand that they shouldn’t throw garbage there. And in this neighbourhood, a large number of houses were built right on top of these drainage ditches, which obstructs them. So these children were victims of the garbage.

A drainage ditch in Matoto filled with rubbish. (Photo courtesy of Fatoumata Chérif.)

'We wait for a disaster to hit before taking action'

Local authorities in Matoto began demolishing homes that blocked drainage canals on May 19. In a post on the mayor's office Facebook page, officials said they had cleared out a 5-metre-deep water pathway that had been clogged with waste for 10 years.

Chérif said the neighbourhood needed better construction methods to prevent further obstruction of the drainage system.

We need to do more than just knock down houses. We wait for a disaster to hit before taking action. The government steps in during emergencies but we need a solution to this problem.

We need to rethink the layout of these neighbourhoods and figure out ways to build homes that won’t impede drainage. But, most importantly, we need to improve waste collection. Currently, waste is collected by small private businesses. In this neighbourhood, garbage isn’t collected regularly because it is hard to get close to the houses. The road is rough and the houses are built one on top of another. So lots of people end up dealing with garbage themselves.

We need to learn from this flood. We should set up public dumpsters so that people can dump their garbage themselves without waiting for it to be collected. If we don't, people will start blocking up drainage canals again even if they are afraid of further flooding. When you see the damage caused by one night of rain, imagine if it rained for 24 hours.