Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last two years. Though considered stable at the moment, the country is still very cautious.
Our teams have remained safe and are on the front lines of Ebola prevention through this water, hygiene and sanitation program. Your support acknowledges and celebrates their selfless work and bravery.
The entire team continues to express their gratitude for your support of communities in Sierra Leone, and we can’t wait to celebrate safe water together!
Please enjoy the following report comes straight from the field, edited for clarity and readability:
Welcome to the Community
Kamara Taylor Street runs through Yongoroo Community, which is home to 1186 people from approximately 148 different households. (Editor’s Note: While this many people may have access on any given day, realistically a single water source can only support a population of 350-500 people. To learn more, click here.) The only radio station since the founding of Kaffu Bulloum Chiefdom is located in this Yongoroo Community; an old presidential lodge after the late president was converted to a radio station. This is the largest and neediest community we have visited so far this year.
A normal day can start at any hour. The community is predominately made up of fishermen who get up at all hours of the night. Prayers at the mosque are even put on hold to catch the best fish. The children, no matter what age, know the hour, minute and second that the tide comes in with what type of fish. Men have no livelihoods but for fishing. Children and women stand on land to draw nets. The schools in this community have a huge dropout rate as children stay home to help fish.
There are always people ready to work for tips. A lot of fishermen cannot afford to buy nets or even build their own boats. These daily workers have no loyalty to one boat owner, but work on a first come first serve basis. As early as midnight, women, men and children are found lined up at the beach waiting to help draw the chains and nets to shore. For many, this is how they get to eat. They don't get paid money, but instead get paid in small fish.
The only source of water in this community is an unprotected spring. Children seem to be primarily responsible for fetching water for their families. It takes about 20 minutes to get through the line and fill a five-gallon container. These children use a small bowl or cup to scoop water directly from the spring, but the difficulty is getting down the steep slope to the spring itself! Once home, the water is separated into containers according to use. Drinking water is covered and kept up off the ground, and water for domestic use is kept in an open bucket.
A clinic was opened just because there are so many medical crises in this community. Community members use the beach to relieve themselves and water is left uncovered, among many other bad habits. The rate of typhoid and dysentery is high, and skin discoloration and missing hair is a common sight. Children are running around with bloated stomachs and pale skin.
Rigba Kamara, a mother and fish seller says that "...we have no control of anything. If you don't help us we are good as dead. We bathe in the ocean, saltwater eating away the moisture from our skin, not drinking enough clean water, what are we going to do? We are simply waiting to die, I will not have any more children, one is enough! I cannot take care of one, I might die before he grows up, his life will be a mistake, I wish I never had him."
No more than half of households have a latrine. The branches of coconut palm leaves are woven together to make latrine walls, and a hole is dug in the center. Locals can only dig a few feet until they meet water, since they are so close to the ocean. This discourages households from digging latrines in the first place. Thus, disease spreads at an alarming rate.
Only a few households have important tools like hand-washing stations, dish racks, and clotheslines. The majority of people throw their trash in the ocean.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Community members will be trained on hygiene and sanitation. We plan to include the local school's child health club to help teach about good health. We are in the process of checking this area for teachers, and plan to make sure any and all teachers attend this training. Training professional trainers will be crucial in such a desperate community! When we are not there, the teachers can continue to share what they learned.
The facilitator plans to use the PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training) method to teach about the following topics and others:
- Dangers of open defecation
- Importance of facilities like latrines and bathing rooms
- Steps of proper hand-washing
- Disease transmission and how to stop it
Since this is such a large community, we are considering extra training sessions. We ask that each training participant bring their own container to learn how to build a hand-washing station.
Plans: New Well
A new borehole will be drilled in the central location agreed on by the community: #1 Kamara Taylor Street. We will use an LS200 drill rig, and finish the well with an India Mark II pump.
Mr. Unisa Kamara, a local Muslim man says that "The imams, mosques and all our descendants have stood by with no help. They can keep their religion to themselves! How can I go to the mosque without water? They have not done anything for us, and the religion we do not practice is helping us. Please save us, without help we are all dead."