Urban risk in Freetown’s informal settlements: making the invisible visible

Rapid urban development and a rising population have led to significant changes in

Freetown over the last decades. Although the city’s status as the nation’s economic

heartbeat has been bolstered, the growth and sprawl of informal settlements

and the continuous lure of rural-urban migration have led to a range of risks, both

episodic and ‘everyday’. These risks are more concentrated in the pockets of informal

settlements and are becoming progressively embedded in the way of life of its

residents, with adverse effects. In order to `make visible’ and capture the hidden

vicious cycles of risk accumulation and risk traps, the city needs to be re-examined

through a lens of urban risk. This policy brief reflects on the participatory approaches

adopted to improve knowledge of small-scale and everyday urban risks. Through

these approaches, urban risk traps were captured to assess mitigation efforts by a

range of actors, revealing the embedded `capacities to act’ on the captured risks.