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Olivia Acland

Freetown, Sierra Leone
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About Olivia
Olivia Acland is a journalist based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She works primarily in print, photography and radio. She has also made 360 videos for Al Jazeera. Her regular outlets include: The Economist, BBC, Al Jazeera. She is featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 media list in 2017.
Audio package (Radio / Podcast) Interview (Video / Broadcast) Feature Stories
Politics Natural Disasters Media Training

BP’s latest dirty secret? Oil terminal has been polluting Red Sea and coral reef for decades

10 Nov 2022  |  The Telegraph
An investigation reveals that an oil terminal, previously co-owned by BP and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, has been illegally discharging contaminated water into the Red Sea for decades, severely impacting marine life and coral reefs. Despite a clean-up contract awarded to Hydro Industries, pollution continues unabated. The article highlights the environmental and public health risks, the resilience of Red Sea corals, and the broader implications for global marine ecosystems. The Egyptian government's repression of journalists and activists is also noted, alongside international efforts to address the issue.

Vladimir Putin thanked BP’s Bernard Looney for his role in the Russian Geographical Society

25 Feb 2022  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Bernard Looney, the CEO of BP, serves as a trustee of the Russian Geographical Society, an influential organization chaired by Vladimir Putin. Looney, who joined the board in 2020, was personally thanked by Putin for his contributions during a virtual meeting. The society, originally founded in 1845 and revitalized by Putin in 2009, aims to preserve Russia's national identity. Looney's involvement is expected to face increased scrutiny.

You make money by finding men: DR Congo’s gold rush sex trade

07 Nov 2021  |  www.aljazeera.com
In Luhihi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the gold rush has led to a surge in sex trade, with women and girls, some as young as 14, turning to prostitution to survive. Deborah, a 17-year-old prostitute, moved to Luhihi after a gold rush began in 2020. The town, once bustling with miners and businesses, now sees fewer miners and more women struggling to find clients. The article highlights the dire conditions faced by these women, the risks of violence and sexual exploitation, and the broader context of conflict and mineral smuggling in the region. Organizations like UNICEF provide some support, but many women remain vulnerable.

Greece’s electricity grid on brink of collapse as heatwave fuels record wildfires

02 Aug 2021  |  The Telegraph
Greece's electricity grid is at risk of collapse due to a severe heatwave causing widespread wildfires. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has urged reduced electricity use. Fires have devastated areas near Patras and Rhodes, with temperatures expected to rise further. In Turkey, fires have killed eight and led to mass evacuations, with the EU and other countries providing firefighting assistance. Criticism has been directed at the Turkish government for its lack of preparedness. Italy and France are also battling fires, with significant damage and evacuations reported.

Tremors shake Congo's Goma after volcanic eruption, scores missing

24 May 2021  |  www.sightmagazine.com.au
Repeated tremors in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, following the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo have caused significant distress and disruption. The eruption destroyed villages, displaced thousands, and killed at least 15 people. The lava flow stopped short of Goma but caused extensive damage, including cutting off electricity and blocking a major road. Continued tremors have damaged buildings and raised concerns about further eruptions. Humanitarian efforts are hindered by the closure of Goma's airport and blocked roads, affecting aid delivery to 1.4 million people in North Kivu. The death toll may rise, with many people, including children, reported missing.

DR Congo's Goma volcano: Desperate search for children missing after eruption

24 May 2021  |  BBC
The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, DR Congo, has led to significant destruction, with around 500 houses flattened and over 100 children missing. UNICEF and the Red Cross are actively involved in reuniting children with their families, with 360 children already reunited. Thousands fled towards the Rwandan border, and many residents are accustomed to fleeing due to ongoing regional violence. Personal accounts highlight the desperate search for missing children and the emotional toll on affected families.

Congo Volcano Leaves Death and Smoking Wreckage, but Major City Spared

23 May 2021  |  ntd.com
Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Congo erupted, causing a trail of lava that destroyed hundreds of houses and resulted in at least 13 deaths, including nine in a traffic accident and four during a prison escape. The lava flow stopped short of the city of Goma, sparing the major city and its airport. Residents, recalling a deadly 2002 eruption, fled on foot, with some crossing into Rwanda. The International Federation of Red Cross reported that thousands fled into Rwanda, but some began returning the next day. The eruption was due to fractures in the volcano's side, and while the immediate danger has passed, authorities warn of potential further flows. The OVG, responsible for monitoring the volcano, faced challenges due to funding cuts and internet issues, hindering their ability to predict the eruption.

Congo volcano leaves death and smoking wreckage, but major city spared

23 May 2021  |  www.investing.com
A volcanic eruption in eastern Congo from Mount Nyiragongo caused significant destruction, burying hundreds of houses and killing at least fifteen people. The eruption halted just short of the major city of Goma, sparing it from direct impact. Thousands fled to neighboring Rwanda, though some have started to return. The eruption severed key infrastructure, including a main road and the city's electricity supply. Authorities warn of ongoing seismic activity that could lead to further eruptions. The OVG's monitoring efforts were hampered by a lack of funding and internet connectivity, which delayed the detection of warning signals.

‘Toxic stress’: Addressing mental health needs in Sierra Leone

21 Jul 2019  |  www.aljazeera.com
Sierra Leone, recovering from a decade-long civil war and a severe Ebola outbreak, faces significant mental health challenges, with an estimated 10 percent of its population affected. The country has limited psychological support, with only two practising psychiatrists. Extreme poverty exacerbates mental health issues, leading to 'toxic stress,' particularly harmful to children. Traditional healers often serve as the primary mental health resource due to inaccessible health services. However, a collaborative effort by individuals, activists, medical professionals, and NGOs is emerging to address these mental health needs.

Sierra Leone mudslide: 'I lost everything'

30 Mar 2018  |  www.bbc.com
The article by Olivia Acland covers the aftermath of a devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone that resulted in significant loss of life and displacement. At least 499 people were killed, and over 600 are still missing following the collapse of Sugar Loaf mountain onto the Regent community and surrounding areas. The journalist provides personal accounts from survivors who lost family members, homes, and all their possessions. The survivors share harrowing stories of escape and the challenges they now face, such as the inability to pay for school fees, the loss of life savings, and the struggle to find shelter. The article also mentions the aid being provided by the non-governmental organisation Street Child to those affected by the disaster.

Stories of disaster and development from Ethiopia's industrial estates, the landslide in Sierra Leone, the Falkland Islands ... and the flamboyant bus stops of Central Asia

30 Mar 2018  |  BBC
Pascale Harter introduces a compilation of stories highlighting both development and disaster across various regions. Alastair Leithead reports on Ethiopia's ambitious industrialization efforts, showcasing new infrastructure and questioning the country's future prospects. Olivia Acland covers the devastating landslide in Sierra Leone, focusing on the survivors' distrust in government rehousing promises. Matthew Teller explores the evolving identity of the Falkland Islands, noting its increasing diversity with examples like Zimbabwean mine-clearers and Chilean hoteliers. Lastly, Simon Calder takes a bus trip across Central Asia, admiring the unique and resilient designs of Soviet-era bus shelters.

The street dancers who dream big

30 Mar 2018  |  www.bbc.com
The article profiles the street dance group Roughest Bounds from Sierra Leone, highlighting their aspirations and challenges. The group, consisting of 12 members including Slim, a 17-year-old dancer, is striving to make a name for themselves despite facing social stigma and financial hardships. They practice daily and earn a modest income from dance competitions and performances at events like weddings. The dancers, who are managed by Samuel, live together in a small apartment and often struggle with basic necessities such as food. Slim, who also attends school, dreams of showcasing their talent on international stages in America or Europe. The group's dedication to their art form is evident as they continue to work on their routines and performances, hoping to change the negative perceptions associated with street dancers in their country.

My photos only - for Reuters on election day in Sierra Leone.

The painful origins of many creole languages

01 Feb 2018  |  The Economist
The article discusses the Creole language of Sierra Leone, known as Krio, and its unique linguistic composition influenced by English, African, Portuguese, French, and other languages. It traces the history of Sierra Leone's Creoles and the formation of Krio through different waves of migration and the abolition of the slave trade. The article also explores the debate over the origins of Creole languages, whether they arise from a pidgin stage or are direct blends of parent languages. It highlights the complexity and richness of Krio, challenging the notion that Creoles have simpler grammars. The work of Eldred Jones, who co-wrote a Krio dictionary, is mentioned as a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of the language. The article also references a study published in the journal 'Nature' and the views of John McWhorter from Columbia University on the simplicity of Creole grammars.

Why Sierra Leone is running out of fish

14 Dec 2017  |  The Economist
The article discusses the crisis of overfishing in Sierra Leone, where foreign trawlers, predominantly from China, South Korea, Italy, Guinea, and Russia, are depleting fish stocks and threatening local food security. Nearly half of Sierra Leone's population is undernourished, and fish is a crucial protein source. The government's weak enforcement capabilities are highlighted by the controversy surrounding a World Bank-funded project, which aimed to police waters but was tainted by allegations of bribery against the Dutch shipbuilder Damen. The country's limited resources for patrolling its waters, including a boat that rarely patrols due to fuel costs, exacerbate the situation. Local fishermen, including Pa Seaport and his son Sulaman Kamara, notice a significant decline in fish, particularly valuable species, and blame both foreign trawlers and local fishing practices. Kadiatu Kamara, a government fisheries officer and Pa Seaport's daughter, acknowledges the problem but also points to local overfishing during breeding seasons.

‘Devil Boy’: Down’s syndrome in Sierra Leone

02 Jan 2017  |  www.aljazeera.com
In Sierra Leone, children with Down's syndrome, like Thomas, are often stigmatized and subjected to harmful superstitions, including black magic rituals. Aminatta, Thomas's mother, faced immense pressure from her community to abandon him, believing he was a 'devil child.' After failed rituals, she found support through the charity World Hope, which helps parents nurture children with disabilities. The article highlights the challenges faced by disabled children in Sierra Leone due to entrenched superstitions and poverty, and the efforts of organizations to change these attitudes.

The lingering shadow of Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone

07 Nov 2016  |  www.aljazeera.com
The article highlights the lingering psychological impact of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, focusing on individuals like Hassan and former burial worker Patrick who suffer from mental health issues. Despite the end of the epidemic, the country faces a severe shortage of mental health resources, with only 21 mental health nurses and one psychiatrist for over 6 million people. The lack of psycho-social support has led to deteriorating mental health for many, including those who lost loved ones and response workers. The government's recovery plans have largely ignored mental health, leaving many without the necessary support to heal from the trauma.

What It's Like to Visit a Nudist Town for the First Time as a Young Girl

20 Jun 2016  |  www.vice.com
A young journalist visits Cap D'Agde, the world's largest nudist town, to explore the dynamics between nudists and swingers. Despite initial discomfort, she observes a community marked by freedom and tolerance, with distinct behaviors between the two groups. The article highlights the coexistence of nudists and swingers, the unique social norms, and the personal challenges faced by the author in this unconventional setting.

Black Magic and Chicken Blood: Photos of My Week with Sierra Leone's Witch Doctors

14 Mar 2016  |  www.vice.com
A week-long visit to witch doctors in Sierra Leone reveals their practices, which combine black magic and herbal medicines to treat illnesses and curse enemies. The president of the National Council of Traditional Healers, Dr. Tarawallie, describes rituals involving incantations to the devil and spells that can kill. The belief in witch doctors is widespread, attracting a diverse range of visitors. The article includes personal experiences and observations of the author, such as witnessing a treatment for a paralyzed girl and undergoing rituals herself.

Black Magic and Chicken Blood: Pictures from My Week with Witch Doctors in Sierra Leone

14 Mar 2016  |  www.vice.com
A week spent with witch doctors in Sierra Leone reveals their use of black magic and herbal medicine to heal and curse. The National Council of Traditional Healers, led by Dr. Tarawallie, claims abilities ranging from curing physical ailments to casting deadly curses. Their practices, including rituals involving animal blood, are widely accepted and sought after by various societal members, from politicians to modern doctors.

What It Feels Like Going to a Nudist Resort for the First Time as a Young Woman

29 Oct 2015  |  www.vice.com
A young journalist, Olivia, visits Cap D'Agde, the world's largest nudist town, to explore the dynamics between naturists and swingers. She describes her initial discomfort and gradual acclimatization to the nudist environment, noting the coexistence of different groups within the town. Despite some awkward encounters and cultural observations, she finds a general spirit of tolerance and freedom among the residents. The article reflects on the complexities of the nudist lifestyle and the blurred lines between naturism and swinging, leaving Olivia with mixed feelings about her experience.

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