Liberia’s biggest township, West Point, is being swallowed by the sea, destroying the capital’s liveliest neighbourhoods and leaving the government struggling to rehouse thousands of displaced residents
Fishermen, hustlers and market traders of West Point have survived two civil wars and an Ebola epidemic, but now facing it’s toughest problem, sea level rise, with the ocean now flowing through their windows and doors.
According to Cecelia T. Nimley, slum resident: “From 2014 up to now, the sea has been embracing our people. At the middle part of the sea you could see so so houses. And good good toilets and good good houses, the sea has swallowed. And when it is coming, it can always come in the night; sometimes 5 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes 2 o’clock when you’re sleeping and the waves will go straight on top of the house. Before you come to yourself, everybody is confused; you’re soaked with water. The swell will just wipe away things. ”
Lives already shattered by Ebola, drug addiction and poverty are getting harder as basic needs such as clean water become threatened by salt water encroaching into the wells, and polluting fresh water.
About 90,000 people live in West Point, which covers just four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) — a fraction bigger than New York’s Central Park — and this area is shrinking by the day.
Fishing has traditionally been the main commercial activity in West Point, but many are now having to abandon their life on the sea.