By Sally Hayden |
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – On a windy day in Liberia’s waterfront slum of West Point, Gbeneweieh Quoh surveys what remains of her home, fearful that it may crumble into the ocean.
The waves tore away three bedrooms in the past year, leaving the fragile structure even more vulnerable to rising tides and storms.
Yet Quoh’s family cannot afford to move anywhere else, so they are just staying put, she said. “What can we do? Nobody will help.”
Theirs is one of thousands of homes that risk sliding into the sea in Monrovia’s densely populated slum community, according to the Liberian government.
“Almost the entire township is threatened by the ocean…it is mainly seated on a sand dune,” said Duannah Siryon, managing director of Liberia’s National Housing Authority.
Coastal erosion threatens thousands of kilometres of coast from Mauritania to Gabon in West Africa, home to about 105 million people. These coastal areas generate 56 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, says the World Bank.
In Liberia’s West Point alone, rising sea levels and erosion have destroyed about 800 homes and displaced more than 6,500 people since 2013, according to the Disaster Victims Association, a group of community leaders. Displaced families have been forced to stay with relatives, find refuge in churches or sleep rough in open-air markets, the association says – with many struggling to feed themselves.
“We (Grant and his brother) eat one-and-a-half cups of rice a day, two on Sunday,” said Daniel Grant, the group’s 71-year-old chairman whose five properties have been swallowed up by the ocean over the past five years.
“We used to have six to seven cups when I had income coming in from rent,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a group meeting in a dark office in Monrovia, the capital.
Earlier this month Liberia’s newly sworn-in President George Weah committed to building 2,000 modern homes to replace fragile structures in West Point as well as a sea wall to keep out the encroaching ocean.