"With clean water, we can now live healthy lives."Mohamed Kamara
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:
This village is so small that cries from one end can be heard at the other end.
There is never a normal day here. People pray to Allah until their foreheads turn black with dirt, yet they find no relief from the suffering they face. The biggest scare is not knowing where your next meal will come from.
Early in the morning, the ritual begins; from bed to the swamp to fetch water and wash the children who are fortunate enough attend school. Many parents can’t afford the school fees. The rest of the children run off to the swamp to scare away rodents from the peanut farm. Barefooted and hungry, off they go. Usually on the way to the swamp, they will come across cassava sticks that make a great early morning snack.
It is now the rainy season and the worst part is over. The worst month in Sierra Leone is August. It rains nonstop, and there is not much of anything to eat. During the rainy season, village children are sent to purchase food from the closest market a mile away. There is no way to preserve food stuffs, so they have to be purchased daily. Women and children undergo so much suffering here. Children walk miles to and from school, which often discourages them to the point of dropping out.
The locally-elected official applied for a water, sanitation and hygiene project on behalf of his community. Once we visited, we were able to collect enough information to deem a project necessary:
Locals fetch water from the nearby swamp. Most women and children use a five-liter jerrycan to fetch water. Standing over the swamp with feet spread apart, a woman will dunk her container into the water and hoist it up to the ground. Children often can’t lift a full container up from below ground level, so they bring a cup to bail water.
The water from the swamp is so murky that it is left to stand for one hour before drinking. Clean water should be colorless, odorless, and tasteless. This swamp water looks like milk, smells like something died in it, and tastes like mud.
The consequences of a safe water shortage in this community are catastrophic. There are reports of malaria, diarrhea, typhoid, fevers, stomachaches, headaches, and countless other complications on a daily basis.
A little over half of households have a pit latrine. These are in bad condition! Just because a family has a pit latrine doesn’t mean they’ll use it. The children here are raised to relieve themselves wherever and whenever they feel.
No homes have a dedicated space for personal hygiene activities like bathing. We couldn’t find any hand-washing stations, even outside of latrines. Under a quarter of families have helpful tools like dish racks or clotheslines for drying their belongings up off the ground.
We met Zainab Kamara during our visit to the community (you can find her under the pictures tab). She’s not sure of her exact age, but thinks she’s probably in her 40s. She does know one thing, though, that “life is suffering.” She said, “I have lost a lot of loves ones. Some of my relatives give birth to ten or more children, but each time only two to three survive. We always blame witchcraft for the death of our children. We don’t want to give birth to so many children, but we have no choice. A woman without children to help her in her old age is ridiculed and is as good as dead. We do not feel pain anymore. I have been to more funerals than births.”
The town crier and the village’s imam will make door to door visits to make sure everybody is prepared for this project. They will announce the training schedule and instruct that each household must construct a latrine.
Training will last for three hours a day for three days. The facilitators have already assessed sanitation here and decided that hand-washing and using the latrine will be strongly emphasized. During our hand-washing sessions, community members will be taught how to make their own hand-washing station out of a plastic jerrycan, sticks, and rope.
Training will also result in the formation of a water user committee that will take responsibility for their new well. The members will manage and maintain the pump to the best of their ability, and will call our office if they need a mechanic to make a repair.
This well will be conveniently located in the center of Mapothie Village. We ensured that this site is far away from any latrines or burial grounds, which would contaminated the groundwater.
Our team will use an LS200 wet drill rig that has the capability of drilling over 100 feet. We will constantly take soil samples to make sure we drill to the best depth for quantity and quality. The well will be finished with a walled well pad and an India Mark II pump.
The community will provide manual labor, water for the drill rig, security for our equipment, and accommodations and food for the work team. Once the well is complete, the water user committee will team up with us to make sure that this new source serves the community for generations to come.
Mariatu's Hope works among the most vulnerable of Sierra Leone towards sustainable water, health and sanitation development. Linking arms with the faith community and Government, our work with Mariatu’s Hope’s work includes the drilling of new boreholes, rehabilitation of existing wells, student/community hygiene training, and institutional/community sanitation projects. Perhaps the greatest and most encouraging of impact within our partnership is the creation of, and ongoing training and work with, Child Heath Clubs who are leading their own communities towards improved health and sanitation.
The Water Project and Mariatu’s Hope connect deeply in our value of the local church, and on our shared role in ongoing support and service to communities long after water projects are installed.